Cyprus, with typically over 300 sunny days a year, has emerged as a lockdown-breaker for Russians as Moscow embarks on a wide-ranging lockdown.
Lockdown in Moscow? No thanks! I’ll have a week-long, sun-seeking session on the beaches of Cyprus please, is what thousands of Russians are telling tour operators as they seek to dodge a new round of Covid-19 restrictions.
On Thursday, the Russian capital reimposed its strictest lockdown since June 2020 as a record 1,159 Covid-19 deaths were announced.
But on the sunny shores of Cyprus, many Russians are avoiding the doom and gloom of home.
“Don’t quarantine, but holiday on the beach!” travel company Orange Sun Tour proclaims on its website osttour.ru, which offers breaks in Cyprus, Egypt, Cuba, and other destinations.
No wonder: At the time of writing, Muscovites are wrapped up to ward off the 8°C and are being splashed by rain, while Paphos is enjoying a tranquil 26°C.
“The Russian market really is a major benefit to Cyprus, as the latest data shows that between June-August there were 320,000-340,000 Russian tourists this summer,” Lakis Avraamides of the Famagusta Tourism Board told the Cyprus Mail on Thursday.
He also told us that 61 per cent of Russian tourists stayed in the Famagusta district, with Ayia Napa and Protaras being the big hitters.
Mkhissin Rami, a manager at Orange Sun Tour, told Reuters the rush had started right after the partial lockdowns were announced last week.
“No one wanted to stay in Moscow, because what can you do here, so demand went up by about five times, for sure,” he said.
The Russian tourist boom to Cyprus was highlighted by deputy tourism minister Savvas Perdios, who said in August that Russian visitors surpassed the Brits for the first time, making up 30 per cent of the country’s tourist influx this summer. In contrast, British tourists accounted for just ten per cent.
The sector has also seen an increase in visitors from central and Eastern Europe, such as Poland, Hungary and Romania – who are all coincidentally going through a rough patch as regards Covid-19.