COVID19: British tourists will not save Cyprus’ summer

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British tourists will not save the day as initially hoped as they will have a hard time booking a Cyprus holiday before the end of August as tour operators refuse to include the island in their offers.

As a result, Cyprus has halved its expectations over tourist arrivals in August to 100,000 from 200,000 as tourists from its biggest market Britain will have a hard time getting here.

Deputy Tourism Ministry Savvas Perdios told the Cyprus News Agency: “Tour operators have notified Cyprus that they cannot include the island in their schedules if the country insists on asking tourists to carry a negative test for Covid-19 as a requirement to enter”.

Perdios estimated in March when the pandemic had taken a grip of the island, that tourist arrivals will reach 25% of 2019 (3.98 million) with 200,000 arrivals in August.

Latest developments in epidemiological data in key markets for Cyprus tourism, such as the UK, which represents roughly one-third of annual tourists, forced the Ministry to revise its target to just 100,000 arrivals in a ‘best-case’ scenario.

From August 1, the UK will be included on Cyprus’ safe list, slotted in category B which requires arrivals presenting a negative Covid-19 test to enter the country.

British tour operators argue that taking a COVID-19 test in the UK is a difficult task as tests are scarce.

Cyprus hoteliers have called on the government to step in and subsidise tests for tourists at the airports while stating that they were willing to chip in.

“Our initial target for August provided for a threshold of 200,000 tourist arrivals. However, following contacts with British tour operators in the last weeks, this target is revised to 100,000 at best,” Perdios said.

He said the revised target constitutes a 50% reduction compared with March estimates and is just 18% of the 553,845 tourist arrivals in August 2019.

The revised target includes a projection for arrivals from Britain to be upgraded to category A which does not require a negative Covid-19 test.

Tour operators, Perdios said, have clarified that their schedules apply until mid-August and they will be reviewed every two weeks.

“Therefore, even with an upgrade, we expect British tourists to arrive towards the end of August with the ceiling remaining at 100,000.”

Perdios said the ministry has yet to revise its target for the whole of 2020 as tour operators have only cancelled packages up until mid-August

He added that 2020 projections will range from 20% to 25% of last year’s arrivals at best, noting that even this is subject to the epidemiological data in key tourist markets like Israel and Russia which remain on the ‘no-entry’ list.