The Cyprus Hotel Association (Pasyxe) is asking the government to bring forward implementation of an agreement with Israel facilitating travel between the two countries so as to capitalise on increased interest among Israeli holidaymakers during Passover.
The agreement will allow for travel between the two countries without the need for quarantine or prior PCR tests for visitors who have been vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicine Association (EMA).
It is due to come into effect in April. Passover week this year starts on March 27 and ends on April 4.
“We are asking for the deal to come into force earlier, ideally at the beginning of March, so hoteliers can prepare the reopening of their businesses two weeks before the arrival of tourists from Israel,” the Director General of the Hoteliers Association Philokypros Roussounides told Cyprus Mail.
He explained that the actual spike in interest from the Israeli market was mainly for the end of March.
“That’s why it would be best to anticipate the start of the deal to the beginning of March. That way, we would have two weeks to get ready and be prepared for a potential increase in the number of visitors.”
In order be extra-careful, Cyprus could test all arrivals from Israel at the airports so as to be 100 per cent sure that the country remains safe, Roussounides added.
With 300,000 arrivals on the island, Israel represented the third biggest tourism market in 2019, behind the UK and Russia, for which Roussouides also urged the government to reach a deal, similar to the one struck with Israel.
However, last Saturday, the Deputy Minister of Tourism Savvas Perdios told the Cyprus Mail that a similar deal with the UK and Russia was not feasible at the moment.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou also commented on the deal made with Israel when announcing the easing of measures against coronavirus on Thursday.
“The deal will only enter into force on April 1 so that we have more time to collect data and information after the easing of measures.”
He stressed that all other arrangements for passengers arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports are still in force.
“At the moment, every person arriving at our airports need to have a negative PCR test,” he said.
Ioannou also added that, regardless of the deal, travellers arriving from Israel will still be subject to random testing at the airport.
“We have the strictest measures at the airports in the EU. We have even taken additional precautions for passengers from the UK, in order to protect ourselves from the Covid-19 variant.”
Under a new decree in force until the end of February, passengers arriving from the UK will have to be tested for coronavirus upon their arrival at Larnaca and Paphos airports. They will then be taken to a designated hotel where they will have to remain in quarantine for seven days at the expense of the state. On the seventh day, they undergo another PCR test and if it is negative they must self-isolate at home for three additional days (total 10 days).