By Andria Kades
TOURISM is flourishing this August not only with the influx of arrivals to the island but with packed planes full of Cypriots going abroad, Greece being the top destination, according to the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents chairman Dinos Kakkouras.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency he said that for local travellers, apart from ten days in July where reservations had been affected due to developments in Greece, the remaining months were very satisfactory.
Cypriots’ most popular destinations are primarily Greece, followed by France, Italy, Austria and other European countries, while long-haul trips did not rate due to the cost, Kakkouras said. The most popular destinations for Cypriots going to Greece are Chania in Crete, Santorini, Mykonos, Kavala, Skiathos, Rhodes and Corfu.
Hermes Airports said last week that Larnaca and Paphos airports were expected to handle half a million passengers on almost 3,000 flights between August 10 and 23, accounting for around a fifth of all 2015 passengers.
Larnaca would handle more than 2,180 flights, transporting to and from Cyprus more than 350,000 people, while Paphos would handle 720 flights and around 130,000 passengers.
Though August is the prime month for travel for most Cypriots, September is not too popular due to the fact that schools are opening, Kakkouras said. In terms of foreign arrivals, however, September is one of the best months of the year next to July and August, he added.
“We hope that the flow of bookings for October and November will continue, which would extend the tourist season”, he added.
He also expressed hope that by the end of the year there would be an overall increase in tourism.
“At the beginning of the year there was a drop due to the Russian market. However, it appears that arrivals from other countries will help us end the year with positive figures,” he said.
Ayia Napa mayor Yiannis Karousos said the amount of money they were making compared to other years was significantly lower while hotel bookings to the resorts town and Famagusta district had only a slight increase.
“There is a significant fall in income from tourism due to the exchange rate of the rouble with the euro as due to developments in Russia, tourists have lost about 30 per cent of their buying power.”
In April, hotels did not even have contracts with tour operators, he said. However, following cooperation with the private and public sector and state support “we managed to offer incentives so that Russian tour operators could make bookings.”
“Large hotels made contracts with tour operators from other European markets and as a result today we have a small increase in tourism arrivals.”
Due to instability in Tunisia, Turkey and the wider region, Cyprus is considered a safe destination. However “it is not a positive development to take tourism from other countries due to terrorism and other incidents in neighbouring countries,” he said.
Hotels chose to settle for low quality tourism as they were aware that due to the problems in Russia there would be plenty of hotels in Ayia Napa, Famagusta and across the island. Karousos said he hoped we could learn from past mistakes and not repeat them.
One such mistake the hotel industry made was accepting only Russian tourists and when problems arose with the market, they were desperate to fill rooms with people. On a positive note, “hoteliers have learnt from their mistakes, reduced their exposure to Russian tourists and opened up to other markets.”
The last 15 years have left Cyprus with about 2.3 and 2.4 million visitors a year, but the figure should be almost double at 4 million, Karousos said.
He added he was pleased that the number of beach parties organised has dropped with the businessman that organises them agreeing last Friday’s was the last one.
“We now look forward to seeing the results this will have on small businesses, based on the fact that another big beach party will not be organised.”
These are efforts to clamp down on the out of control scenes in the party capital.
In 2013, the businessman organised 23 beach parties, dropping them to 19 in 2014 and eight in 2015, Karousos said.