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Perdios says too early to write off the year for tourism

There is interest from both the Russian and Israeli markets should Cyprus open to the two countries in the next few weeks, Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said on Tuesday.

The tourism sector has taken a pummeling from the travel restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Russia and Israel, Cyprus’ second and third biggest markets, are currently both in category C and therefore closed to tourism. The UK, the island’s largest market, was moved from C to B a few weeks ago but the requirement for a negative coronavirus test has weighed down on bookings.

But briefing the House Commerce Committee, Perdios said it was still too early to write off the entire year, given that there are still four months to the end of 2020 and Cyprus is open for business.

“If Cyprus opens to the Russian and Israeli markets in the next weeks there will be interest from these markets. The results of September, October and November are not predetermined,” he said.

The revised target of achieving 20 per cent of last year’s record four million arrivals remains. The deputy ministry had initially hoped for 30 per cent.

“Cyprus is showing stabilisation (as regards the epidemiological situation) which allows us to be open in the next months,” he added.

A return to 2019 figures is not expected before 2023 or 2024 and the next couple of years will be difficult for tourism. Moreover, it is impossible to make predictions or set targets for 2021.

Attention has focused on saving what can be saved for 2020, which means consultations for next year are still not underway.

To fill in for tourist fairs that have been put on ice during the pandemic, the deputy ministry, the transport ministry and airport operator Hermes will hold tele-conferences with airlines that fly to Cyprus and others that do not.

Perdios said the coronavirus pandemic has shown that the deputy ministry’s strategic plan was appropriate. The only thing that changes is the need to speed up various actions envisaged and the deputy ministry was now adapting its plan to see what can be carried out in the next two years.

“This year has shown that more needs to done about independent travel,” he said.

Cyprus needs the tour operators because it is an island, but more emphasis must go to independent tourism so as to improve the product.

Money from the EU’s recovery fund will used to renovate tourism accommodation in the mountains and to upgrade and add variety to the country’s tourism product.

Visits to the deputy ministry’s webpage are up by 500 per cent, pointing to an interest in travel. This has not translated into tourists in part because of changing classification of countries, Perdios noted.

Committee chairman Andreas Kyprianou said the situation is difficult, with the World Tourism Organisation not expecting a recovery in 2021. “There will be a period of two to three years before international tourism fully recovers,” he said.

Akel’s Costas Costa struck a critical tone.

He said the current situation in the tourism sector was because the government had failed to properly manage the crisis and convey the picture of a safe destination. Greece had successfully managed to do so and proved a favourite with German tourists who had ignored Cyprus even though the country is in group A, he argued.

“Whereas with the public’s sacrifice we had managed to bring the number of cases to zero, a few weeks ago we had a surge in cases with tens of cases every day with positive cases among tourists and Cypriots returning from their holidays who were not detected by the authorities because of inadequate checks at the airports and of boats coming to the marinas,” he said.

Moreover, according to the opposition MP, incentives to promote domestic tourism were inadequate even though Cypriots wanted to holiday here.

“Despite our appeals to hoteliers they opened their hotels to reduced prices because of the crisis, with very few exceptions prices were not lowered,” he added.

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