Hotel occupancies over the three-day Christmas and New Year weekends were around 50 per cent, director of the Cyprus Hotels Association (Pasyxe) Philokypros Rousounides told the Cyprus News Agency on Monday. About one in five of the island’s hotels are currently in operation.

Encouraged also by incentive schemes to promote domestic tourism, local residents had in early December and before the explosion in Omicron cases shown keen demand for short breaks for the Christmas holidays.

But the deterioration in the epidemiological situation led to last minute cancellations, resulting in very low levels of business for the time of year, he added.

The mountain resorts reported brisker business, with the operation of the Christmas villages launched by the deputy ministry of tourism attracting visitors, some of whom opted to spend the night.

As a result, occupancy rates in the countryside and the mountains in some cases was close to 70 per cent over the three-day weekends.

As regards January, Rousounides said that the uncertainty over the Omicron variant was taking a toll here and in Europe, with little tourist traffic anticipated from abroad.

But he said that the association was evaluating the situation on a daily basis and hoping that if the restrictive measures prove effective, it can start planning for 2022.

The previous year can be divided in two, with the first half a reflection of a catastrophic 2020 with very low arrivals, and a more acceptable second half which allowed Cyprus to welcome about half the total arrivals of 2019.

The performance of the second half of 2021 has given grounds for optimism that 2022 could, subject to the outcome of the pandemic, mark the start of the recovery although total recovery of the sector is not expected for the next three to four years.

Meanwhile, Paphos hotels recorded occupancies of about 30 per cent over the Christmas and New Year holidays, the president of the local branch of Pasyxe Thanos Michaelides said.

He anticipated occupancies of about 20 per cent in January and was skeptical about prospects for February because of the Omicron variant, adding that this winter was “exceptionally difficult.”

Though Paphos district did slightly better than Christmas 2020, absolute figures were very low. Of the 110 hotels and other tourist accommodation facilities in the district, 28 are currently in operation.