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Cyprus tourism minister denies 500,000 seat shortfall — measures taken to mitigate losses

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Deputy Minister of Tourism Kostas Koumis has denied claims that Cyprus’ tourist arrivals for 2024 will fall short of more than 500,000 seats compared to the previous year.

Despite the challenges ahead, including the loss of the Israeli market and the global aviation crisis, Koumis assured on Tuesday evening that measures have been taken to minimise any losses.

This refers to a report released on Monday by the Association of Cyprus Tourist Enterprises (Stek), which expressed concern about the island’s tourism prospects for 2024, highlighting significant challenges ahead.

“Based on the current situation, particularly in anticipation of the summer tourist season, the Stek board can conclude that there are significant concerns,” the association said.

“According to airline schedules for flights to and from Cypriot airports, there is a projected reduction of 550,000 seats in 2024 compared to 2023,” it added.

The Deputy Minister of Tourism said that “we are facing a challenging year with many difficulties, as the loss or partial loss of the second-largest market for Cyprus, that of Israel, is unfortunately a reality for the country’s tourism sector”.

Koumis added that another challenge is the current global crisis in the aviation sector, affecting many airlines worldwide, which is also a concern for the Deputy Ministry of Tourism.

Reports indicate that a significant number of aircraft have already been grounded due to problematic engines.

“This is a problem that is expected to, unfortunately, also impact Cyprus, as well as many other countries,” Koumis said, adding that necessary measures have been taken to minimise losses, which “in no case will be on the order of half a million seats”.

The Deputy Minister also reminded that any losses are partly compensated by the addition of new routes or increased capacity from specific countries.

He notes that there are ongoing communications with airlines to boost their flight schedules to Cyprus, both in coordination with the Cyprus Ministry of Transport, and in collaboration with Hermes Airports.

He further pointed out that the current list of challenges also includes the economic downturn in Germany, as mentioned in a recent announcement by the Bundesbank, which said that “there is still no recovery for the German economy”.

“The weak phase in the German economy that has been ongoing since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine will thus continue,” the Bundesbank added.

Koumis also said that the similarly challenging economic situation in the United Kingdom is also a factor.

According to a report released last week, confirming that the UK fell into a recession during the second half of 2023, “GDP per person dropped in every quarter of 2023 and has not grown since early 2022, representing the longest such run since records began in 1955”.

Koumis also highlighted the crisis in the maritime transport sector, negatively impacting tourism, as it raises the cost of raw materials at a time when the European tourism industry may not be able to offset it through price increases.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that Cyprus experienced a yearly drop in tourist arrivals in January 2024, the first time this has happened since March 2021, thus interrupting a long-running positive streak in tourist numbers.

According to a report released earlier this week by the Cyprus Statistical Service (Cystat), there were 87,961 tourist arrivals in January 2024, compared to 90,549 in January 2023, representing a decrease of 2.9 per cent year-on-year.

Arrivals from the UK, Poland, and Greece were again crucial to Cyprus’ tourism sector, representing 18.6 per cent, 18.2 per cent, and 11.8 per cent of total arrivals, respectively.

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