Russia’s mixed messages have tourism stakeholders anxious as there are no signs that Moscow will lift a ban on charter flights to Cyprus even though it is increasing scheduled routes.
Russian authorities told Cypriot officials they would be allowing more scheduled flights to leave for Cyprus.
Following a meeting with his Russian counterpart last Friday, Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos announced that restrictions on flights to Cyprus would be partially lifted on 28 June.
According to a Deputy Ministry of Tourism source, this would mean flights from Russia doubling next week.
“Currently, we have 10 flights a week coming from Russia. However, they are expected to increase to around 20, boosting tourist arrivals during this difficult time,” said the source.
However, tourism stakeholders are not convinced, as the country still insists on upholding a ban on chartered flights to the island.
Stakeholders are disappointed over Russia’s move to greenlight chartered flights to Turkey, a major competitor in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In comments to the website Stockwatch, the Association of Cyprus Tourist Enterprises chair, Akis Vavlitis, said the development prevents a mass flow of tourists from Russia this year.
Under pre-covid conditions, Russia was the island’s second-largest tourist market in 2019, with a 19.7% share.
Although the three-day holiday of Whitt Monday pushed hotel capacities up to 90% in some districts, hotels are back to being empty.
“Meanwhile, hotels have to deal with increased costs due to health protocols while lowering prices to attract any tour operators who can organise packages for the island,” said Vavlitis.
Hotels will have a clearer picture of how the summer season will turn out when the UK and Russia announce their plans on lifting travel restrictions.
According to Vavlitis, despite the reaction of British tour operators, the UK government will not be allowing Britons to travel this year.
Amber-listed Cyprus remains off-limits for British tourists.
British tourists arriving in July seem to be fading after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed plans to unlock the country.
The UK has pushed back the much-anticipated step of allowing foreign travel for Britons to 19 July because of the rapid spread of the more infectious Delta (Indian) variant.
Vavlitis believes the UK government has taken a political decision to keep Britons and their money at home this year due to financial difficulties caused by Brexit.
Deputy Minister of Tourism, Savvas Perdios, briefed the Russian government on the island’s improved Covid-19 data and initiated talks on the restart of chartered flights without receiving a response.
Perdios said lifting restrictions on flights were delayed as a new wave of coronavirus infections had hit Russia while they fell behind on their vaccination rollout.
It made Moscow hesitant to allow people to leave the country.
No chartered flights from Russia were conducted this year, with only scheduled flights carried out.