Doom and gloom appear to have descended upon the tourism industry as the numbers of visitors it had been expecting since the opening of the airports in June have failed to materialise. July, the month arrivals were expected to pick up, is also looking like a write-off while industry sources were expressing fears that August was unlikely to be much better.
Deputy minister of tourism, Savvas Perdios, conceded that the target of getting 25 per cent of last year’s arrivals in 2020 will not be met. The reason is that tour operators have made it clear to Perdios that they would offer no packages to Cyprus as long as the covid-19 test is a requirement for every tourist from a Category B country, which the UK is poised to join from category C on August 1. This rules out the UK which is our main market for package holidays, even though efforts had been made to persuade operators to include the covid-19 test in their packages.
Tour operators had flatly refused to cooperate, said Perdios, explaining that it was not the cost they objected to but the very idea of a test. They were not offering package holidays in any country that required a test. So even the Hoteliers’ Association proposal of paying half the cost of the test is a non-starter given the stance of the operators who, understandably, do not want to complicate their work. They organise holidays not medical tests.
Our authorities have been very naïve in thinking that in the current situation they could set conditions for people holidaying in Cyprus. Demand for holidays was bound to plummet and competition for holidaymakers was certain to increase, with tourist destinations fighting for a share of the contracting market in order to boost their economies. Spain and Portugal opened to tourists from the UK several weeks ago, while direct flights from the UK to Greece started on Wednesday. None of these countries are demanding a covid-19 test, which gives them a big competitive advantage over Cyprus.
It is astonishing that the tourism authorities believed people from Category B countries like the UK would go to the trouble of getting tested in order to come to Cyprus when they could go to so many other destinations without this hassle. Perhaps they were under pressure from the government, which is following the advice of the epidemiologists. In the last couple of days, several of them have spoken publicly about, ‘winning the battle at the airports’, insisting that the test requirement should remain to protect public health.
The government has made its choice for now, choosing to protect public health at the expense of pushing the economy into deeper trouble than it already is.