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COVID19: Russian tourists join no-show Brits

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Cyprus’ tourism crisis is deepening as its two largest markets, the UK and Russia, have designated the island a no-go holiday destination until further notice.

The summer season is shortening rapidly to claw back losses of yet another disastrous year blighted by coronavirus, as British tourists are told to stay away, and chartered flights from Russia are banned.

Last week, UK authorities decided not to add Cyprus to its green list, despite a last-minute pitch from Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios to convince the British government that Cyprus deserved to be on it.

Talking to CyBC radio, Perdios said he found the UK’s decision “unfair” while arguing the island has suffered collateral damage from Russia’s bad epidemiological picture.

Since then, Britons have been advised by the British government not to take a foreign holiday this year.

Perdios flew to London and Moscow to convince local authorities to include Cyprus on their green lists.

“The situation with the spread of the virus is unpredictable, things are unstable, and despite our own improved epidemiological data and we have opened up to many countries, things are not in our hands,” said Perdios.

He cited the UK’s stance toward Portugal, which it placed back on the orange list, just three weeks after adding them to the green list.

“The issue with Russia is that they are having difficulties with their vaccination program.

“Russia President Vladimir Putin told us at the World Economic Forum that their vaccination has slowed, and they will have 60% of their population vaccinated by September,” said Perdios.

It has made the Russian government hesitant to allow people to leave the country.

“That is why chartered flights are not allowed”.

Perdios said no chartered flights from Russia were conducted this year, with only scheduled flights carried out.

“Therefore, these are not flights that were lost; it was programming by the Russian tour operators and air carriers that have been rescheduled for July.”

He said Russian tour operators were privately planning to carry out about 500 chartered flights to Cyprus, while the British operators were more cautious.

Perdios believes there are positive signs that Cyprus will be included on the UK’s green list while Cyprus will be among four to five countries Russian authorities will allow chartered flights.

He will be revisiting the Russian capital in the coming weeks.

The British view Cyprus’ improved Covid epidemiological situation positively, focusing on vaccination data and infections with the Indian variant.

“I believe that if our epidemiological situation continued to improve and provided that we don’t find infections with the Indian covid variant, the chances of Cyprus entering the green list in the coming weeks are good.”

Perdios is confident that Cyprus will be on the UK and Russia’s green list in the coming weeks, but it could prove too little too late.

Pre-Covid-19, over 53.2% of Cyprus’ record 3.97 million tourist arrivals in 2019 came from the UK (33.5%) and Russia (19.7%).