COVID19: Hotels want free tests for British tourists

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Cyprus hoteliers are urging the government to encourage British tourists to choose the island for their holiday by offering them a free coronavirus test upon arrival.

Stakeholders are unhappy that the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Savvas Perdios conceded Cyprus would be unable to save even a quarter of last year’s 3.9 million arrivals.

Perdios said attracting 25% of last year’s record arrivals is no longer feasible as Cyprus’ main markets Britain, Russia, Israel, and Sweden, constituting 64% of all tourist arrivals in 2019, are not on the approved entry list because of their COVID-19 risk status.

Perdios admitted the bad situation is compounded by tour operators not offering packages to the island from countries which Cyprus asks travellers to carry out a coronavirus test before boarding a plane.

In comments to website Stockwatch, chairman of the Cyprus Hotels Association Limassol branch, Charis Theocharous urged the government to arrange for British tourists to have a free test at the airport, noting that Cyprus hoteliers are more than willing to chip in.

“We call on the government to do their part. From the moment that a test is needed, hoteliers are willing to take on the cost in cooperation with the government,” said Theocharous.

He also called on tour operators to prove that they really want to bring their clients to Cyprus.

“If tour operators do not want to have their clients undergo a test, then they should come out and say it”.

Tour operators argue that tests in the UK are expensive, while the number of qualified laboratories is far from sufficient, making life difficult for potential travellers.

“The struggle is currently being waged between health and the economy, so we must find a way to marry the two,” Theocharous said.

He reminded that the damage suffered by hoteliers this year will be huge, especially for those opting to reopen their units at greatly reduced occupancy and high cost.

UK’s epidemiological data has significantly improved in recent weeks with local health authorities reporting 398 cases on 14 July.

In April, the UK was reporting some 6,000 cases a day.

Despite the improvement on a national level, there are small outbreaks, leading the UK government to lockdown entire cities.

If the UK’s coronavirus data remains on a downward trend, British tourists – by far the island’s biggest market – will be allowed entry from August 1 on the proviso they provide a negative COVID-19 test.

There are plans to allow British tourists – and other category B countries – to be speed tested at the airports on arriving in Cyprus to get around difficulties of getting tested in the UK.

Making this free of charge would remove a health ‘surcharge’ for holiday travel to Cyprus.