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Tourism off to a good start, war and sanctions aside

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The island’s battered tourism industry is trying to recover from the coronavirus, as well as the impact from the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia, as it gets off to a stronger start than in 2021.

But this is far from the first two months of 2020, according to figures released by the statistical service Cystat.

For the January – February period this year, tourist arrivals totalled 115,865, compared to just 8,936 in the same period of 2021, and 191,214 during January – February 2020, a month before the Covid-19 pandemic arrived on the island.

Tourist arrivals reached 71,921 in February 2022 compared to 5,047 in February 2021, and far from the 105,592 in February 2020.

According to Cystat, arrivals from the United Kingdom were the main source of tourism in February with a share of 25.9% (18,618) of total arrivals, followed by Greece with 12.2% (8,771), Russia with 8.0% (5.732), Ukraine with 7.9% (5,711), Israel with 7.8% (5,639) and Poland with 6.4% (4,612).

For 64% of arrivals, the purpose of their trip in February this year was for holidays, 21.5% were to visit friends and relatives, and 14.5% were here business. By comparison, 11.6% of tourists visited Cyprus for holidays in February 2021, 35.2% to visit friends or relatives and 53.2% for business.

Cyprus’ tourism was severely affected following lockdown measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 when the pandemic began in mid-March 2020.

Tourism stakeholders are lost at sea as the effects of the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia are just beginning to bite.

With the war dragging on for a month, they have essentially written off all tourist arrivals from Russia and Ukraine.

Loss of 800,000 tourists

The island’s tourism boss, Savvas Perdios has said that some 800,000 tourists from Russia and Ukraine were expected to land on the island for a holiday get away this year.

Authorities have turned to their traditionally biggest market, the UK, and new emerging markets to cover the gap left by Russian and Ukrainian tourists.

Perdios said that the gap could only partially be covered, as the junior ministry for tourism expects an increase of 250,000 arrivals, mainly from the UK.

Compared to 2019 – when a record 3.97 million tourists arrived – there was a 51.3% decline in 2021. British tourists made up one-third of all tourist arrivals in pre-COVID 2019.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, tourist arrivals plunged by 84.1% in 2020 from 3.97 mln tourists in 2019, marking Cyprus’ worst tourist season in recent history.

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

Income from tourism in 2020 declined to its lowest point since 1999 when such data was collected.

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 arrivals.

Under normal circumstances, income generated from tourism contributes around 15% of GDP.

Pre-COVID, over 53% of Cyprus’ 4 mln tourists in 2019 came from the UK (33.5%) and Russia (19.7%).

Cyprus had three successive boom years before the pandemic, with British arrivals peaking at 1.4 mln.