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Cyprus tourism in hibernation until June

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Cyprus tourism will have to make the most of the summer months with holidaymakers unlikely to take an off-season break during the pandemic.

The Tourism Ministry has called on stakeholders to come to terms with the new reality shaped by coronavirus and travel restrictions to control it.

During an online discussion with stakeholders, Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said the clear messages from tour operators are they will be promoting Cyprus packages only for the hot summer months.

“Tour operators are now only interested in the high season, that is the summer where they know for sure they can attract interest for prepaid packages or even last-minute deals to make their money,” Perdios said.

He said whereas pre-COVID, tour operators were willing to take a chance and invest time and money in promoting low season packages to Cyprus, they are not willing to do so in the aftermath of coronavirus.

“They will be concentrating on the safer summer season, in a bid to make up for losses they suffered in 2020 and so far in 2021.”

Perdios also said the national strategy will be revised to make the most out of incentive schemes for promoting alternative tourism.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, Director-General of the Cyprus Hotel Association, Philokypros Rousounides, confirmed that Cyprus will struggle to extend the seasonality of its tourism over the next few years.

“Uncertainty prevailing in the coming years will push holidaymakers to play it safe and opt for summer holidays, as they know what they will be getting.

“People are returning to the basics, their comfort zone which is the sun and the beach,” said Rousounides.

Not wanting to say for how long Cyprus would have to make do with summer holidaymakers, he noted that for the next couple of years the industry will be placing its hopes on vaccination programs carried out in its main markets the UK, Israel, and Germany.

Write-off

He believes the first half of 2021 will be a complete write-off compared to last year when in January and February 2020 tourists came before the first lockdown in mid-March.

Although hotels were not ordered to close during the second national lockdown from 10 January, Cypriots are not allowed to book a hotel room, essentially pushing them out of business.

“Due to lockdowns and restrictions in place we do not expect to see any serious movement until probably the end of June,” said Rousounides.

Rousounides argued that despite challenges posed by coronavirus, Cyprus should not give up on its efforts to broaden its seasonality and should revisit its 10-year national tourism plan.

“The pandemic has highlighted the fact that Cyprus still depends on its sunny season and beaches.

“The coronavirus outbreak should not be an excuse for stakeholders to throw in the towel and hope for the best during the summer season, but rather it should push us to Improve Cyprus’ seasonality.”

Rousounides said hoteliers will need help from the state to stay in business.

“We need the state to continue supporting hotel employees at least until the end of June to keep unemployment down.

“Furthermore, the state should step in and help hoteliers with their rising debt with state guarantees that will back loan restructures,” said Rousounides.

He argued the hotel sector has been one the most reliable for reducing Non-Performing Loans with their debt ratio dropping from 60% to 10%.

Cyprus went from record tourist arrivals to plunge 84% in 2020 with the island suffering a tourism nightmare as the pandemic decimated holiday travel.

Tourist arrivals plunged by 84.1% in 2020 from 3.97 mln tourists in 2019, marking Cyprus’ worst tourist seasons.

The pandemic ended four successive record years of tourist arrivals that helped Cyprus emerge from a financial crisis in 2013.