By Stelios Orphanides
Tourist arrivals in March rose almost 41 per cent to 137,013 compared to the same month in 2015 mainly on increased arrivals from the United Kingdom, Cyprus’ largest source of incoming tourism, the statistical service said on Monday.
In the first quarter of the year, overall arrivals rose 32 per cent to 251,608, or by 61,620, compared to the same time last year, Cystat said in a statement on its website.
In March, arrivals from the UK rose an annual 44 per cent to 59,282 while those from Russia, Cyprus’ second most significant tourist market, rose 63 per cent to 12,835, Cystat said. Arrivals from Germany rose almost 74 per cent to 12,917 and from Greece 50 per cent to 12,191.
“We have to win the bet with seasonality,” Giorgos Lakkotrypis, minister of energy, industry, commerce and tourism said on his
Twitter after the figures were released.
In March, the number of Cyprus residents travelling abroad rose 4.6 per cent to 86,229, Cystat said.
The “impressive” increase in arrivals in the first quarter prompted the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) to forecast that 2016 could see the island breaking a new record in tourist arrivals, “unless something serious and unpredictable happens”.
Last year, Cyprus attracted 2,659,405 visitors, 8.9 per cent more compared to 2014, which was an all-time record. Directly or indirectly, tourism accounts for about one quarter of Cyprus’s economy, which expanded 1.6 per cent last year after three years of continuous recession.
Arrivals in the winter season, stretching from November to March, “exceeded 438,000” after rising an annual 33 per cent which “is also considered important,” the agency said.
Out of the almost 2.7 million tourists who visited Cyprus in 2015, more than 2 million arrived in March to September, according to official figures.
“The CTO’s efforts towards an increase in arrivals over the winter period are paying off,” the organisation said, adding that it “wants to warmly thank its associates for their contribution in achieving this goal and asking them to continue their efforts without being complacent for the benefit of the country”.
Arrivals in 2015 rose the most in the last two months of the year and appear to be related to geopolitical events in the region, including the crash of a Russian airline over the Sinai peninsula on route to St. Petersburg from Sharm el-Sheikh on October 31, for which the so called Islamic State, a jihadi militant group operating mainly in Syria and Iraq, claimed responsibility.
The crash prompted European governments to issue travel advice. Also, the downing of a military Russian plane by Turkey on November 24, caused tensions between the two countries and several Russian tour operators removed Turkey from their programme.
Arrivals from Russia continued to increase even after Russian airline Transaero filed for bankruptcy on October 1 and Cyprus Airways run out of cash in January 2015.