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COVID19: Hoteliers hope Israeli tourists will keep them afloat

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Hoteliers are banking on tourists from Israel and Cypriots as a stopgap until the island’s largest market, the UK, allows Britons to holiday abroad.

Cyprus is opening up from 1 April to almost 60 countries, allowing arrivals without quarantine. Still, hoteliers do not expect serious movement until July, as the UK remains cut-off from Europe.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, Philokypros Rousounides, the Cyprus Hotel Association director general, said they hope that Israeli tourists will pump some life into the island’s coronavirus-stricken tourism sector.

For the UK and Israel, people vaccinated with an EU-approved COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed entry to Cyprus without any other requirement.

Britain makes up a third (33.5%) of the island’s 4 million tourist arrivals under normal circumstances, and Israel around 7.4%.

Recent developments in the UK where a ban on international travel has been introduced until the end of June, with those breaking the ban slapped with a £5,000 fine, has made things harder for British tourists to plan a summer holiday.

“We are banking on a number of factors, given that Britons may not be allowed to travel in the coming months.

“On the one hand, we are waiting to see how traffic from Israel will pick up while requesting from the government to lift a ban on local bookings,” said Rousounides.

He said that the number of flights for Cyprus from Israel scheduled by airliners for April has significantly increased; however, “we don’t expect to see any real flows of tourists before the end of June”.

Hoteliers are waiting for authorities to shed light on when Cypriots will be allowed to book a hotel stay while also asking the government to clarify its financial support to hospitality businesses that will remain closed.

Rousounides said 95% of hotels are currently shut, as hoteliers waiting to see how bookings pick up in the coming days to decide whether it is worth opening before the summer.

“We hope that at the next Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the government will clarify the issues so that the hoteliers can plan their operations.

“The lifting of the ban on overnight stays for Cypriots is an important parameter for any decision since it is estimated that our compatriots will rush to take advantage of incentives given to strengthen domestic tourism that has been extended until the end of May.”