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Coronavirus: Travel agents urged to ‘roll up sleeves’ and get to work for 2021

The island’s travel agents are getting ready for next year in a bid to turn around the pandemic’s negative impact on tourism, with arrivals until the end of 2020 not expected to exceed one fourth of last year’s four million, it emerged on Wednesday.

Head of the travel agents’ association (Acta) Vasilis Stamataris said at the professional group’s 66th annual general assembly that with the deputy ministry for tourism, they are already making plans for next year.

“I would describe this year as a ‘black year’ for both our inbound and outbound tourism,” Stamataris said.

Deputy minister for tourism, Savvas Perdios, who attended the event, said difficult years are ahead but expressed optimism that tourism will bounce back.

He said that world tourism shrank by 65 per cent to 70 per cent. In the Mediterranean generally there was a decrease of 70 per cent while in the Eastern Mediterranean it was 80 per cent.

“Cyprus has not done anything better or worse than other countries in the region in terms of tourism,” Perdios said. He called on travel agents not to be influenced by statements made by some countries aiming to impress and which have nothing to do with reality.

Permanent secretary of the deputy ministry for tourism, Theofanis Tryfonos, said that based on experts’ assessments, tourism is expected to fully recover by 2024.

He stressed the need for the tourism industry to be fully prepared so recovery comes as soon as possible.

The head of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Keve), Christodoulos Angastiniotis, raised the issue of unemployment due to the crisis in the tourism sector.

He added that with key interventions from all social partners, the government finally included the tourism sector businesses in the special plans that expire in October.

“This does not fully satisfy us,” he said, adding that tourism workers should continue to receive state support until the end of March, as they have been proven to be hit the hardest.

Angastiniotis also called for incentives to airlines. He added that Keve is ready to make a bigger and more targeted promotion of the tourist product of Cyprus abroad.

Perdios said that programmes were needed to promote ‘slow tourism’, the new trend that emphasises environmental holidays and authentic experiences in local communities.

He asked Acta’s support in his ministry’s effort to promote these authentic experiences for which, he said, “Cyprus will stand out.”

Perdios said he has recently visited 100 communities in rural and mountain areas and called on Acta to do the same, so that it can offer visitors, special personalised experiences, according to the standards of other foreign agents.

Stamataris said that they don’t expect more than 20 per cent of last year’s arrivals that were to the tune of four million by the end of the year.

“For us tourism professionals, there is no choice but to roll up our sleeves and try to improve the outlook for 2021,” he said.

He called for continuation of the financial support of the professionals and the employees of the sector, tax, financial and other incentives to Acta members to be able withstand the crisis and incentives to airlines to continue their flight programmes from Cyprus.

He also called for bigger and more targeted promotion of Cyprus in foreign markets, the possibility of collaborations with other countries for tourist exchange but also greater facilities from commercial banks to Acta members.

 

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