By Costas Apostolides
It is sometime now since an analysis of tourism in Cyprus as a whole has been published, and in view of various alarmist reports south of the Green Line (GL), it is time to examine how the sector is developing in Cyprus as a whole. In 2016 Cyprus as a whole had almost 5 million visitors of whom 33% went north of the Green Line, where they generated revenues officially put at €3 billion.
The Table below shoes that both north and south of the Green Line tourism expanded rapidly between 1980 and 2016, from 353,000 to 3,652,000 in the Republic and from 84,900 to almost 1,600,000 in the north. The structure of the tourist sectors is, however, quite different. Tourists from Turkey dominate in the north (77 per cent), while in the Republic south European Union member states account for 60 per cent of tourists, led by the UK (36 per cent), while Russia accounts for 25 per cent. Figures from Germany, Greece and Sweden are significant with over 100,000 from each country. But both sides of the Green Line are heavily dependent on a few tourist markets.
Tourists from Turkey have in the past primarily been interested in gambling in the 30 or more casinos in the north, which resulted in an average length of stay of tourists of only four days, compared to almost 10 days in the free areas. The average expenditure per tourist in the Republic is €647 and in the north €421, which may imply that the average length of stay has increased in the latter.
The Information available is limited and does not allow easy comparison. For example, a small number of tourists (about 3 per cent) travel through Larnaca airport but stay in the north, and are presumably included in both sets of figures.
In conclusion tourist arrivals have increased rapidly on both sides of the Green Line but the dependence of the Turkish Cypriot economy on Turkish visitors constitutes a weakness because the numbers are overwhelming. With 358,000 non-Turkish visitors to the north in 2016, the perceived threat to the Greek Cypriot economy is still modest, as it is equal to only 11 per cent of tourism to the Republic. The weakness, of tourism south of the Green Line is the failure to penetrate the German and French markets.
Costas Apostolides is a Founder Member of Pac Cypria Cyprus institute for Peace