The readiness of hotels to welcome tourists is a given and the efforts of tour operators, especially British ones, towards starting flights from May, creates the prospect of the tourist season starting earlier this year. Before the pandemic, bookings used to start from the previous year and gradually increased. Last year, due to the pandemic and related restrictions, the tourist season actually started in July and ended in October with an average occupancy rate of 25–35 per cent for the hotels which operated. Booking confirmations started gradually in June, cancellations were deducted and new bookings were added, something which has started this year as from March. It appears that the bookings are double the cancellations and they will increase over time with the result that the occupancy of hotels will reach much higher levels than last year. The return to normality is desirable but the return to the number of arrivals of the previous years, prior to the pandemic, will take time and we look forward to achieving this in the following tourist seasons.
The two major tour operators TUI and Jet2 announced their programme for Cyprus from the UK would start on May 17 and similar messages were given by Germany during the international tourist exhibition, ITB, in Berlin. Israel will also strengthen the tourism industry with the influx of tourists following the intergovernmental agreement with Cyprus, as well as the traditional markets of Switzerland, Austria, Poland and Scandinavian countries, from which bookings are being received. The Russian and the Ukrainian market will also increase their share of arrivals, given encouraging messages from tour operators. It is also expected that domestic tourism will contribute to increased bookings, as well as the experience of hotels acquired in the handling of the epidemiological situation.
The tourism industry needs state aid through subsidies, which helped employment and reduced losses last year, to continue, since the expected increase in hotel occupancy will not be sufficient for the full employment of all personnel. It is preferable to increase the number of employees and their period of employment instead of adopting shift or part-time employment.
Timely and correct planning is necessary to give the opportunity to analyse the data and possibilities and to make the right decisions that will serve the tourism industry and public interest. The actions taken to promote Cyprus as a safe and attractive tourist destination are correct and enhance the product. The statements of the deputy minister of tourism to the British press strengthened the increased interest and bookings for Cyprus.
Cyprus offers visitors many options when planning their holiday. They can choose a hotel or other tourist establishment or package according to their needs and the location according to their preferences, whether it will be Ayia Napa, Protaras, Limassol, Paphos or Larnaca. The sunshine and the long period of good weather provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to the time and duration of a vacation. There is every likelihood that visitors will enjoy their holiday, with the sun, sandy beaches, excursions, history, sights, gastronomy, entertainment and hospitality.
All actors in the tourism sector, the Ministry of Tourism, hotels, affiliates and tour operators should continue promoting Cyprus and it is certain that there will be further interest and bookings, even at the last minute. Local authorities can also play their role and assist in the effort to promote Cyprus and attract tourists through cultural events. We can be optimistic that the tourism industry will successfully deal with the situation during the upcoming tourism season for its benefit and that of the local economy.
George Coucounis is a lawyer in Larnaca and the founder of George Coucounis Llc, [email protected]