Only a tenth of Cyprus’ 700 hotel units has bothered operating after the lockdown was lifted as tourists are thin on the ground, according to the Deputy Ministry of Tourism.
This number is not expected to increase any time soon, as hoteliers are contemplating whether it would even be worth their while opening before August.
As the island’s main tourist sources – Britain and Russia – are still viewed as high-risk countries for coronavirus cases and contagion, the majority of hotels, especially the five-star owners, say they cannot afford the risk of opening.
Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios told CyBC radio on Wednesday that package holidays, which would include a hotel booking, will be lower this year compared to individual bookings.
Cyprus package deals are normally more than 60% of all holidays booked but it will fall below 50% this year.
He added that his ministry is intensifying its advertising campaign, mainly online, but that hotels too needed to do their own promotions.
“The only tourists that arrived on package holidays were a few groups from Switzerland over the weekend,” Perdios said.
He said there was interest in individual holidays, in particular young couples aged under 30 without children and middle-aged vacationers, over 50, whose children would have grown up and are no longer living with them.
“These people are booking their holidays directly through online platforms and are buying their airline seats themselves.”
Cyprus hoteliers are now placing their bets on the last month of the summer season, as for the majority of hotels July bookings are far from sufficient for them to reopen.
Hotels associations are calling on their members to weigh up their situation, taking into account the market on which they are dependent, the operational damages their units will sustain if they are to open or remain close and take their own decisions.
In comments to news website Stockwatch, the President of the Association of Cyprus Tourist Enterprises, Akis Vavlitis said that five-star hotels have a bigger dilemma as they employ large numbers of personnel.
Vavlitis said: “Larger hotels are facing a bigger problem because, under the new schemes drawn up by the government to support businesses, they will have to re-hire 50% of the permanent staff when they reopen.
We have hoteliers who employ 600 permanent staff only at one hotel. Under the scheme, essentially, the government is forcing them to bring in 300 people regardless if they have just one tourist or 20% occupancy.
For these hotels, the operating costs will be unbearable.”
“The new schemes act as a disincentive, rather than an incentive for five-and-four-star hotels while creating unfair competition in the industry itself because the operating costs for some units are greater than for others.”
The newly appointed general director of the Cyprus Hotels Association Filokypros Rousounides said: “currently one can count hotels that have opened on the fingers of his hands”.
“Every day we hear that more hotels are planning to open adding to the 3-4 hotels that have operated in each district. But as the situation is still volatile, we can’t say for sure how many units will open as everything is up in the air”.
Commenting on July bookings, Rousounides agreed that they are close to zero.
However, he hopes that things will pick up in August when Cyprus’ traditional markets will be able to travel again.
“Without these traditional markets such as Britain and Russia and the Scandinavian countries, which make up for half of our tourist inflow, then hoteliers might as well write-off the year,” Rousindes argued.
He noted that hoteliers are waiting for the government to announce when these markets will be opening.
Britain alone contributes a third of all tourist arrivals to Cyprus, it has yet to be included on the approved list of low-risk COVID-19 countries.
Rousounides said that without at least an indicative date, hoteliers and travel agents will not be able to put together packages for tourists wanting to come to Cyprus this year.
“I am very afraid that tourist streams will be swept towards other countries that have already announced the opening of these destinations. Like Greece, for example, which has already made the relevant announcements.”