There will be no special treatment for people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19, Deputy Minister for Tourism Savvas Perdios said on Tuesday, stressing that the country is open to all who fulfil the entry criteria.
The minister also said a rise was expected in tourist arrivals this year compared to 2020’s “tragic year” but they will reach nowhere near the numbers of 2019, when they island received around 3.9 million tourists.
He was speaking at a press conference to present the deputy ministry’s work for 2020.
This year Cyprus is expected to rely mainly on the traditional markets that are moving faster with vaccinations, but also on new markets, he said.
According to Perdios, the most advanced countries in the field of vaccinations are currently Britain, Israel and Russia, which are the markets from which 65 per cent of arrivals came in 2019.
“This means they will put the situation under control more easily and there will be fewer restrictions on their movement to Cyprus,” he added. He also said that it is positive that direct flights are expected to and from France and the Nordic countries.
Tourism will be particularly difficult, however, for the first half of the year due to the ongoing coronavirus situation across Europe and the world in general and calls from governments to their people not to travel.
Perdios said that regarding the first months of the season “nothing is moving” while there have been cancellations and travel agents have said that there won’t be flights before the end of April, beginning of May.
Perdios also welcomed as positive the change in the categorisation of countries from March 1, according to which 56 markets are expected to be continuously open for Cyprus.
According to the minister, vaccination against Covid-19 will not be a condition for someone to come to Cyprus. What is more important, he said, is for visitors to do the tests needed before arriving.
He also said that there is no official information yet that a vaccinated person does not carry the virus and cannot pass it on.
Replying to a question, Perdios said that in no case will vaccinated people be given incentives to come to Cyprus and that anyone who wants to may do so if they meet the entry criteria, which is testing based on the category in which their country of departure is.
Perdios also said he was not in favour of advertising Cyprus and its product based on epidemiological data, safety and vaccines.
“None of this is a tourism product and I think it is wrong for us as country, or any country, to advertise vaccination rates or epidemiological management,” he said. “We are here to promote the product of Cyprus and our uniqueness.”
He added that the protocols and vaccinations that may be advertised by many countries are not a competitive advantage.
Perdios however, said that 2020 was “a tragic year” for tourism but not for his ministry since it was able to implement 95 per cent of its action plan. Actions achieved last year include passing the law on the registration of owners renting properties through Airbnb, with registrations to start towards the end of 2021.
He also said that extraordinary negotiations were held with travel agents and airlines, resulting in the launch of 13 new routes from 10 countries. He noted the base set up by Wizz Air in Larnaca, something Cyprus has been seeking for a long time.
The deputy ministry has also upgraded the tourist product with actions such as the revision of the Wine Routes, the enrichment of the list of archaeological sites for conference events, the upgrading of the Aphrodite Cultural Route, diving tourism, cycling, and contacts abroad regarding special forms of tourism.
It will also implement projects of tourist interest in inland areas such as the planning of a 300-kilometere Authentic Experience Route to support and highlight the countryside, mountainous and remote areas and the planning of a large-scale, one-month long event, in the greater Troodos area, for Christmas 2021.
Plans also include a Street Food Festival in Kathikas, Paphos with the aim of boosting the wider region, but also the promotion of Cypriot wine and gastronomy.