COVID19: Cyprus hotels may not open after Israel set-back

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Many Cyprus hotels are having second thoughts about opening in July, after Israel’s epidemiological COVID-19 data worsened which means Israeli tourists will need to fork out extra for coronavirus tests.

Following a spike in daily COVID-19 cases in Israel, Cypriot health authorities put the country in a higher risk category resulting in Israeli tourists needing to take a coronavirus test before arriving.

It had been a category A country which allows tourists to enter Cyprus without a health certificate from June 20.

As Israel is now ranked a Category B country visitors arriving from their must produce a health certificate for travel to Cyprus, which means passengers will have to add another €100 to their budget – for families this makes the cost prohibitive.

Some 293,746 of Cyprus’ 3.97 million tourists last year came from Israel – a 7.4% share.

Israel had been reporting 10-20 new COVID-19 cases a day in mid-May, but epidemiological data worsened as the country started seeing between 100-200 cases a day.

On 20 May Israel had reported just 8 new cases, while on 12 June it confirmed a staggering 226 new cases.

In comments to news site Stockwatch, chairman of the Cyprus Hoteliers Association’s (CHA) Famagusta branch, Doros Takas, said: “Hoteliers are thinking twice over opening their units in July because there are no reservations.

Tourists from Israel will only be coming for a three or four-day holiday.”

Takas said it was a risk to open hotels without having sufficient bookings beforehand.

While noting that no hotel has reopened in Ayia Napa, he said that just two out of the three have remained open after initially resuming business earlier this month.

The owner of Adams Beach Hotel and Adams Beach Hotel Deluxe, Christos Kitazos, also told Stockwatch that Ayia Napa hoteliers are reconsidering opening in July after the turn of events in Israel.

“If the situation is not reversed with flights resuming as usual (without passengers required to carry a health certificate), then hotels in Ayia Napa will not be opening before 10 July”.

He clarified that for a hotel to be able to make ends meet, the occupancy must be proportional to the number of rooms.

“If it is below 30% it means that hoteliers will suffer losses, 2020 is one of the most difficult years for the industry”.

Kitazos said that hoteliers are trying to reduce losses as starting the new season in the red will cause further problems for the industry.

Empty hotels

Hotels resuming business in Paphos saw occupancy rates of 40% last weekend, while hotels are practically empty on weekdays.

Thanos Michaelides, CHA’s Paphos chairman said that occupancy at his company’s Almyra Hotel dropped to 45%, while from Monday to Friday the occupancy is “close to zero”.

“Now we have lost Israel, some hoteliers will reconsider whether they will operate their units in July.”

Israel is the island’s third-largest tourist market behind the UK and Russia, with the British and Russians not coming any time soon, the Israelis were expected to be a lifesaver.

He noted that, while “the industry could not rely solely on the Israeli market, it is, however, a breath of fresh air, helping the industry to breathe”.

In Paphos, just three hotels (Almyra, Capital Coast and the Amphora Resort) reopened during the first week of June when hotels were given the green light after lockdown.

Head of the Cyprus Hotel Managers Association, Christos Angelides said that hotels that decided to reopen, have already undertaken a significant amount of risk, noting the government needs to step in to further support the industry.

Angelides said the state should financially support all staff at hotels which will not open while allowing hoteliers the flexibility to use fewer personnel needed to operate under the new conditions.

Angelides said: “If they tell us that in order to resume business, 30% of the permanent staff will have to be employed, then no one will opt to open…what we are asking for is a flexible work and unemployment scheme”.