Cypriot tour operators and travel agents are on the verge of collapse and have no option but to go cap-in-hand to the government for financial support measures, the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents Association (Acta) said on Wednesday.
The global coronavirus epidemic has hit tourism first, and hardest, with a combination of travel restrictions and fear of being infected that prompts cancellations.
Hoteliers have already said March was a complete write-off even before Cyprus had its own two confirmed cases.
“Our daily work now consists of cancellations and more cancellations,” Acta president Vasilis Stamataris told a news conference on Wednesday.
He said on top of a reduction in air services globally, there have been conference cancellations, and cancellations of package holidays both incoming and outgoing. Acta, members he said, operate 70 per cent of incoming tourism and 100 per cent of outgoing.
Losses were currently running at around €30m from the collapsed sales.
“The travel sector is in danger of collapse. We are facing the worst crisis we have ever faced, and our survival now becomes questionable without financial support.”
Stamataris said many of Acta’s 200 or so members were trying to figure out ways to stay afloat “including layoffs”.
“Unfortunately, it appears that several travel agencies will stop operating, causing Cypriot tourism to suffer a major blow,” he added.
The Acta chief has asked the government to include them in any state support plans that might be announced for the economy such as the suspension of taxes, VAT and social security payments to the state.
He echoed hoteliers saying that March was a write-off and April and May were not looking any better. “Easter bookings are at zero,” he said. “We’ve got zero sales.”
The only hope now in keeping the sector afloat somehow was to focus on the period from September and on, “and for 2021”.
“We don’t want to put [state] money in our pockets. We want to put in the money that will keep our businesses alive so that we can have optimism about the future of tourism,” he added.
Stamataris said this was the first time in the association’s history that Acta members had asked for state help.
He said the closure of Cyprus Airways, Eurocypria and Cobalt had caused a great deal of damage in the past “but despite the problems and such things as Sars our industry did not ask or receive any financial support measures”.
“We need immediate support to stay alive, and to fight for continuity as we did in 2013,” he concluded.