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Action plan being prepared to cover gap left by Russian tourists says minister

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The government is preparing an action plan to cover the gap left in the tourist industry by the situation in Ukraine, Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said on Friday as the Association of Cyprus Tourist Enterprises (Stek) said the gap will be impossible to cover.

Meanwhile, Disy head Averof Neophytou has suggested dropping the FlightPass from April 1 would help the tourism industry recover from the crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine. He said moving the ‘bureaucratic obstacle’ could help increase arrivals.

Karousos said that Russian and Ukrainian tourists are estimated to make up over a fourth of the total tourist numbers coming into Cyprus every year, with an estimated loss of 800,000 tourists as a result of travel restrictions imposed on Russia across Europe.

He said the government had estimated this year’s tourist numbers would come close to the record year of 2019, with businesses reporting a 90 per cent booking rate. “We would have been very close if the war hadn’t broken out.

“We’ve now accepted that we’ve lost the Russian and Ukrainian markets this year,” he said, adding the action plan would promote the Cypriot tourist industry to new markets with a view to them covering some of the losses.

He said the focus of both his and the deputy ministry of tourism has shifted to attracting tourists from countries in Europe and the Middle East.

Karousos also mentioned the expanded destination list of Cyprus-based airline TUS, remarking that there has been increased interest from more airlines and cruise ship operators.

“Some of the world’s largest cruise ships are considering making Limassol port their home,” he said, which would funnel at least €1million a day into the Cypriot economy.

Stek head Akis Vavlitis said the association applauds the combined efforts of the transport ministry and deputy tourism ministry to attract new markets, saying however that the association is not so optimistic that the gap would be adequately covered.

Vavlitis said that hotel owners will follow the ministries in fostering new connections, but at the end of the day “it would be impossible to fully cover the gap left through other markets”.

“This crisis will be another significant blow to Cypriot tourist businesses, who largely depend on the Russian market,” he added, after weathering two very difficult and financially damaging years because of the pandemic.

Further expected price hikes across the board will put additional pressure on the tourist industry, which had been optimistic that 2022 would be a year of recovery, he said.

“In light of the recent events, we are calling on the labour ministry to urgently examine the prospect of reinstating a support scheme for hotels that depend on Russian and Ukrainian tourists, similar to the one set up during the pandemic, as they will definitely be affected”.

Neophytou has held several meetings with leaders of the tourism industry and said that the island will emerge victorious from this crisis too.

“The good tourist name of the country and the upgrading of tourist services contribute decisively to finding alternatives to the reduction of arrivals from Russia and Ukraine,” he said.

 

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