COVID19: TUI gives Cyprus thumbs up as safe destination

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Travel giant TUI is planning to resume flights to main holiday destinations in Europe by the end of June with Cyprus earmarked as one of the best prepared to receive tourists.

The major tour operator is pressing ahead to resume flight to countries where the coronavirus threat has abated.

“We are planning to start flying again from end June, in time for summer vacation,” TUI chief executive Fritz Joussen told Rheinische Post in Germany.

He said the Spanish island of Mallorca, a favourite hot spot for German travellers, would be likely to be the first destination.

“We want to resume flight traffic to Mallorca from mid-to-end June. Austria, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Bulgaria are also well-prepared,” Joussen told the paper.

Germany is also among 13 countries that Cyprus will allow flights from when its airports open on June 9 post-COVID19 lockdown.

German tourists were the island’s fifth-biggest market (3.8%) last year when 151,500 visited, 20% down on 2018 arrivals mainly due to poor connectivity.

Earlier this month, TUI, the world’s largest tourism group, said it would cut 8,000 jobs and look to shed 30% of its costs as it gears up for a July restart to European tourism.

The decision comes as airlines look to ramp up flights from next month.

The global aviation industry has taken a battering from the impact of coronavirus, with most airlines only going ahead with a handful of flights.

The company, which says it has 27 million customers, has identified Cyprus, Greece and Austria, as being more viable among European destinations because the virus there appears to be contained.

It was forced to cancel the majority of its travel programme in March as lockdown measure came down across Europe.

TUI has cancelled all holidays until June and cruises until July. It would normally be running hundreds of flights a week at this time of year.

Travel restrictions across Europe and further afield mean that the busy summer season for many though is still in doubt, leaving millions of holidaymakers unsure of their plans.

A spokesman for Tui said countries were “knocking at its door”, eager to see it reopen hotels and bring back tourists.

Safe holidays

Tui said it was trying hard to resume operations and had worked out a number of protocols to make its holidays safe.

It has a 10-point plan of guidance on how to reopen safely, including limited buffet services, restrictions on some sports and games and longer opening times at restaurants.

The European Commission has said a summer holiday season shouldn’t be ruled out this year.

Joussen said: “The demand for holidays is still very high. People want to travel.

“Our integrated business model allows us to start travel activities as soon as this is possible again. The season starts later but could last longer.

“For 2020, we will also reinvent the holiday: new destinations, changed travel seasons, new local offerings, more digitalisation.”

Tui said it was ready to resume providing holidays this year, using new social distancing and cleaning measures.

“The health and well-being of both customers and colleagues remain paramount and we are assessing how we can responsibly adapt to measures so that leisure travel can resume,” the firm said.

“We are preparing new procedures for the airport process, onboard our aircraft, in hotels and on our ships, so that any social distancing recommendations or guidelines can be implemented, without compromising customer enjoyment and travel experience.”

Tui, which has a global workforce of 70,000, was recently bolstered by a €1.8bn (£1.6bn) state-backed loan in Germany, where it has its headquarters.