COVID19: Late push to save Cyprus tourism season

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Cyprus tourism stakeholders are throwing everything into salvaging what’s left from another coronavirus-stricken season, encouraged by a recent boost in bookings and flights for autumn.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, Cyprus Hotel Association Director-General of Philokypros Roussounides said hoteliers hope to make the most of an increase in flights and bookings.

“We have seen an upward trend in bookings since the beginning of August, which seems to be continuing in September and October,” said Roussounides.

He said Cyprus has proven to tourists and tour operators that it can be an all-year-round holiday destination, with September and October offering warm weather.

“Our goal is to pull off a better season than 2020.

“The increase in bookings and flights has boosted our morale, but we are, however, on our toes as everything will depend on our epidemiological performance,” said Roussounides.

He argued that while a drop in cases may be encouraging, the virus has proven to be unpredictable, overturning plans and expectations more than once.

Hoteliers and stakeholders are encouraged by an increase in bookings and flights in the coming weeks.

According to Hermes Airports, the operator of Cyprus’ two airports, 746 flights are expected to land at the island’s airports during the first week of September, from 700 scheduled for late August.

Stakeholders are also expecting an increase in flights from the country’s third-largest market, Israel, as flights will increase from 11 at the moment to 59 in the first week of September and 65 in the first week of October.

Deputy Minister of Tourism Savvas Perdios has said Cyprus’ epidemiological data-led Israel to place it in their highest-risk category, banning tourists from flying to and from the island.

Perdios said if a downward trend of new COVID cases continues, he expects Israel to revise its travel list, upgrading the island to a safer category.

UK flights — the island’s largest market — are expected to pick up in September, rocketing from 17 in the last week of August to 178 in early September, increasing to 199 in the first week of October.

In comments to the website Kathimerini, the honorary chairman of the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents, Victor Mantovani, said that unlike the UK, bookings and flights from the second-largest market Russia are declining.

Flights from Russia will drop from 78 in the last week of August to 75 in the first week of September and 73 in October.

Struck by the coronavirus pandemic, for the six months January – June 2021, arrivals of tourists totalled 340,984, a decline of 79.1% compared to pre-COVID 2019 (1.63 mln arrivals).

A mixture of national lockdowns, quarantine and travel restrictions has decimated the island’s tourism industry which generated €2.68 bln in 2019 on record 3.97 million tourist arrivals.

Tourist revenues and arrivals in 2020 plunged by 85%.

Pre-COVID, over 53% of Cyprus’ four million tourists in 2019 came from the UK (33.5%) and Russia (19.7%).