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Tourism not likely to see 2019 levels until latter half of 2024

Tourist arrivals for August and September are expected to be similar to those of July’s, but officials are not ruling out a slight rise in the near future, deputy tourism minister Savvas Perdios said on Thursday as hoteliers presented hopeful figures for the season.

But Cyprus will most likely not reach 2019 levels until the second half of 2024, the minister warned.

Perdios told the Cyprus News Agency that the deputy ministry’s efforts to promote the local tourism product will continue in the autumn to extend the tourist season, adding that this all depends on the changing epidemiological picture in Cyprus and abroad.

“We are hoping that there will be no further setbacks, and that our own epidemiological outlook will be good so we can take advantage of our good climate in the autumn”.

This is a transitional year that will hopefully lead towards recovery in 2022, he said, adding that it is still too early to make any predictions.

“We have not set any goals for 2022 but we are sure it will mark the beginning of recovery. Nevertheless, we might need to wait until as late as 2024 to reach 2019 figures,” he said.

To illustrate, Perdios pointed out that from the start of the year to the end of July, tourist arrivals accounted for only 30 per cent of the corresponding figures in 2019.  There were almost 300,000 visitors in July compared with 65,000 or so in July 2020 and over 550,000 in the same month in 2019. The January to July numbers were down 70 per cent on 2019.

Perdios pointed that this July’s figures came to 55 per cent of July 2019’s figures, something he said was satisfactory, “considering UK arrivals only started at the end of July and Cyprus was the only European country in the red category during this month”.

Perdios also said that Russian visitors surpassed British ones for the first time, making up 30 per cent of the country’s tourist influx this summer. In contrast, British tourists only made up 10 per cent – a figure that is expected to rise.

Hoteliers’ association (Pasyxe) director general Philokypros Roussounides told the Cyprus News Agency that August has been much busier than July, with average hotel occupancy rates set to hover around 45 per cent for the month.

“During the August 15 holiday weekend, some hotels reached up to 70 per cent while others surpassed that,” he said.

Roussounides added that hoteliers have expressed satisfaction over rising trends in hotel bookings and the influx of tourists in general, in comparison to last year.

“Our primary goal was to make this year better than the last, but we cannot ignore the bigger picture, which is that this year’s blow [to the tourist industry] is just as big as last year’s.”

The main tourist markets hotels are currently relying on is Russia and Ukraine, he said, adding that tourists from the UK did not reach the expected numbers due to the uncertainty created by the pandemic.

Nevertheless, there is still hope in the form of September bookings. “We sincerely hope that our epidemiological outlook will create the right circumstances that will allow tourist movement to continue in October,” he said.

Perdios said that markets the government has invested in for the past 18 months, like Ukraine, Greece, Poland and Israel, have also contributed between 5 and 8 per cent of total tourist numbers.

“I am certain that the next few months, and 2022, will see tourists from new markets coming to the island,” such as France, Germany and Scandinavian countries. “Even though [visits from these countries] dropped significantly in 2020 and 2021, they have always supported Cyprus and we are expecting their return in the winter and 2022”.

Even though last year was lost and this year is tough, hoteliers hope that 2022 will mark the start of a recovery period for the tourist industry, spurred by an improved epidemiological outlook which could bring more UK tourists in the autumn, Roussounides said.

He also said that many hotels managed to reach satisfactory levels of business thanks to Cypriots who took advantage of the government’s holiday schemes, even just for weekends.

He clarified, however, that this could not change the whole picture because the full take-up of the scheme only lasted for a few days.

The scheme was part of the government’s vaccination incentive package which offered vaccinated individuals and those who recovered from the virus in the past six months holiday discounts at local hotels during July and August.

The deputy tourism ministry’s annual local tourism scheme offers Cypriots the chance to stay in an array of hotels at reduced prices, but it usually pauses during the high season of July and August and resumes in September.

However, when the scheme restarts in early September it will extend as far as late November, something that has never happened before as it usually ends in October, according to Roussounides.

Those interested will still need a SafePass.

Pasyxe is positive that solutions can always be found through maintaining a dialogue with the state – “something we have done for the past year and a half,” he added.

“This has shown that cooperation between the private and public sectors can create the ideal conditions to protect the industry so that we can move towards a period of recovery in 2022”.


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