Cyprus welcomed a record 3.97 million tourists last year, smashing the previous record set in 2018 by a slender 1%, official figures show.
Against the odds, Cyprus has recovered from airline closures and the collapse of UK tour giant Thomas Cook and increased competition from traditional competitors Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.
In 2019 arrivals of tourists reached 3,976,777 from the previous record of 3,938,625 in the previous year, making it the highest number ever recorded in Cyprus.
The island saw a marginal increase in arrivals from its largest market Britain with 1.33 million visitors, up 0.2% in 2018. Britain had a 33.5% share of tourist arrivals last year.
Russia remained the second-largest source of tourists to Cyprus with a 19.7% share reaching 781,856, down 0.2% on 2018.
A 26.3% surge in arrivals from Israel made it the third-largest market for Cyprus with 293,746 tourists coming last year, giving it a 7.4% share.
The largest increase in tourists was from Ukraine, up 36.5% to 95,031, making up 2.4% of total arrivals.
There were declines from major markets Greece, Germany and Lebanon that prevented the island from breaking the psychologically important four million barrier.
Cyprus’ tourist breakthrough was boosted by the busiest December on record with 110,330 arrivals, up 3.5% on December 2018.
The tourism boom has helped Cyprus to return to robust GDP growth of over 3% after it was forced to agree to a painful 10-billion euro bailout from international lenders in March 2013 to rescue its crumbling economy and insolvent banks.
Tourism revenue figures for 2019 have yet to be released but income from tourism accounts for around 15 per cent of GDP and is credited with underpinning the quick recovery.
Last year Cyprus tourism generated a record €2.71 bln in receipts.
Earlier this month, the deputy tourism ministry launched a 10-year strategy to upgrade the island’s holiday appeal.