COVID19: Free tests for British tourists shot down

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The government has rejected a proposal tabled to offer a free COVID-19 test to British tourists wanting to come to Cyprus for a holiday, shattering any hopes of attracting Britons this summer.

Cyprus hoteliers urged the government to encourage British tourists to choose the island by absorbing the cost of coronavirus tests which they need to enter the country.

The Cyprus Hotel Association said that they would stump up 50% of the cost for the tests if the government put in the other 50%.

Cost and availability of the test in Britain add convenience and expense to a Cyprus holiday at a time when travel is a risk in itself.

The proposal was shot down at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, when arguments in favour of the proposal, by the Tourism Minister and the Ministry of Transport, were met with scepticism by the Health and Finance Ministers Constantinos Ioannou.

Reportedly, Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides expressed concerns over a possible sharp increase in cases and the impact on the good image of Cyprus it has built on handling the COVID-19 outbreak.

Deputy Minister of Tourism Savvas Perdios had told Sunday’s Kathimerini newspaper that providing British tourists with a free test was the only way Cyprus could attract them.

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

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.

Hotels are unhappy with the Deputy Minister of Tourism conceding Cyprus would not be unable to save even a quarter of last year’s 3.97 million arrivals, 1.33 million of those were British.

This 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.

Hoteliers were initially hoping that British tourists would save the day as of August 1, the UK will be included on Cyprus’ safe list, slotted in category B which requires arrivals presenting a negative Covid-19 test.

But Britons 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.