After reaching the target of surpassing the number of flights recorded last year, the deputy ministry of tourism is preparing for a “difficult” 2023, as the end of the war in Ukraine is still nowhere in sight, deputy minister of tourism Savvas Perdios said on Thursday.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions imposed on the country resulted in the loss of the Russian tourism market, the second largest for the island behind the UK, for the most part of 2022 so far, he said. Around 800,000 tourists were lost from Russia and Ukraine.

At the same time, deputy ministry said that the numbers recorded this year in terms of visitors were satisfactory and estimated them at around 75-80 per cent of 2019 arrivals, before the Covid pandemic.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency on Thursday, Perdios said that the strategy of targeting new European markets “not only paid off, but it will help us grow in the years to come.”

“The biggest opportunity for Cyprus in the coming years in terms of tourists’ arrivals comes from EU member states. That is clear,” Perdios said.

“Now is the time to target EU countries, it is the right way to go.”

Perdios added that throughout the first eight months of 2022, arrivals from France doubled compared with 2019.

At the same time, arrivals from Germany increased by 26 per cent, from Denmark by 70 per cent, from Italy by 52 per cent and from Austria by 57 per cent.

“We believed in the French market, we invested in it, and it has not disappointed us,” Perdios said, adding that new routes to and from France were currently being studied.

“From May to August we reached recorded 50,000 arrivals [from France], which is double the number of arrivals in all of 2019. It is the highest number of arrivals we ever had from France.”

The deputy minister, however, added that no signs are currently pointing to a change in the arrivals situation with Russia for 2023.

“We have reached our eight-month target for 2022 and we now have four months to improve our numbers and prepare for what we expect to be a difficult 2023,” Perdios said.

Finally, he said the focus would also shift to Saudi Arabia, as direct flights to and from the middle eastern country to Cyprus have recently been announced from early next year.