Cypriot and Greek travel agents have been working on a joint proposal to submit to their respective governments that aims to restart tourism once conditions allow.
The Association of Cyprus Travel Agents (Acta) and their Greek counterpart Hatta held a teleconference in which they discussed the possibility of opening up tourism between the two countries as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.
As both Cyprus and Greece are amongst the countries in Europe that have best managed to contain the coronavirus, the idea behind the proposal is to encourage tourists from both countries to visit each other, as explained by the president of Acta Vasilis Stamataris.
“We want people to start thinking what their next destination will be,” Stamataris told Cyprus Mail. “And, considered the proximity between Greece and Cyprus, not just in terms of distance, but also in terms of language, culture and history, I think the tourism industry will benefit from the potential boost that the proposal can give.”
Stamataris said that, in order for the proposal to be appealing to tourists, naturally the prices should be competitive as well.
“The idea behind this proposal is to offer potential tourists the most convenient packages possible,” Stamataris said. “We are already in talk with several airlines and hotels who have agreed to be included in this initiative.”
Stamataris admitted that, even if the proposal was accepted by both governments, it would be nearly impossible to fill up hotels from the beginning.
“We have to be realists, this initiative aims to reboot the tourism industry, but it will still suffer big losses this year. However, we want to send a positive message and I think it’s about time that people need a distraction and something to look forward to after months of uncertainty and fear.”
The proposal, however, will only become a reality once the government reopens the airports, so there is still no clear timeline for its implementation. Ideally, Acta would like for it to become a reality around mid-May as airlines are eager to start operating even sooner that that, Stamataris said.
“Nevertheless, we cannot decide on this, it will be the government scientific committee’s responsibility to inform us when it will be safe to travel again. But we want to have a head start once we have the green light,” he added.
The move was welcomed by the Cyprus-Greece business association, which said the exchange of tourists was a very positive step in efforts to handle the heavy repercussions the pandemic has had on the tourism industry.
The association suggested that both countries could cover part of their losses from tourism if they managed to offer attractive incentives to their citizens to visit the each other’s countries over the summer.
Meanwhile, the Association of Cyprus Tourist Enterprises (Stek), which represents the island’s four and five-star hotels sent a letter to the government on Tuesday with its suggestions on the re-opening of tourism.
Stek’s called for a unified European policy for the industry, urging the implementation of a “health passport” as a way to monitor the possible spread of coronavirus.
Finally, it reiterated the importance of introducing a state subsidy for the industry, “which has suffered incalculable losses and will need to rely on the state in order to get back to being a key asset for the country.”
The World Health Organisation said this week that some governments had suggested that the detection of antibodies to Covid-19, could serve as the basis for an “immunity passport” or “risk-free certificate” that would enable individuals to travel or to return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the WHO said.
“At this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an “immunity passport” or “risk-free certificate.” People who assume that they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice. The use of such certificates may therefore increase the risks of continued transmission.”
Billionaire Bill Gates, who is in partnership with the vaccine alliance Gavi, said recently: “Every additional month that it takes to get the vaccine is a month when the economy cannot return to normal.”