Despite the war in Ukraine and soaring prices, Cyprus tourism boss Savvas Perdios is confident the island will see the same number of tourist arrivals as it did in 2021.
Last year, 1.93 million tourists visited Cyprus, a spike of 206.7% since 2020 when the island banned commercial flights from March to June to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Perdios told state radio CyBC that he would be in London on Friday to promote Cyprus holidays as the island turns to alternative destinations to compensate for the loss of some 800,000 arrivals from Russia and Ukraine.
The junior minister expressed the industry’s hopes of increased flows from the UK, its traditionally strongest market, Israel, and emerging players such as France, which he will visit next week.
Confident of reaching last year’s figures, he said: “Due to COVID restrictions, we did not see any UK tourists until the end of August, while Israel was closed the whole year.
“This year, things are different with British and Israeli tourists already making their way to the island”.
“The UK remains our number one market, with Israel expected to do “extremely well” this year because arrivals from Israel were non-existent last year due to Covid restrictions,” added Perdios.
This year, about 30% of British holidaymakers will be packages already paid for and based on 2019 rates and will not include any cost hikes.
Next week, Cyprus’ tourism boss travels to France to discuss the new programme of direct flights, thanks to which Cyprus expects some 100,000 holidaymakers this year.
“The most arrivals recorded in one season from France were the 40,000 in 2019 when there were no direct flights.
“This season, we will be seeing 20 flights a week from and to France.”
The first scheduled direct flight from France will be on 29 March.
Other quality destinations are also expected to do very well this year, such as the Scandinavian countries, from which Cyprus has not seen a significant number of arrivals during the two-year pandemic.
Perdios said that authorities would be renewing a “staycation” scheme, giving incentives to Cypriots and residents to enjoy the island’s beauty spots.
He said the current scheme offering subsidised holidays ends this month, with the ministry ready to table the next one before the cabinet on Wednesday.
“The scheme will be upgraded, offering locals more holiday options, as we aim to get more hotels on board this season,” said Perdios.
He wants to inject the local market with more tourists while also offering Cypriots who may not be able to afford to fly out due to their diminished purchasing power.
The scheme is expected to start on 1 May until the end of July.
Perdios’ comments come as the battered sector is trying to recover from coronavirus and the impact of the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia, as it gets off to a stronger start than 2021.
For January – February this year, tourist arrivals totalled 115,865 from 8,936 in 2021 and 191,214 during 2020, a month before the Covid-19 pandemic arrived.
Tourist arrivals reached 71,921 in February compared to 5,047 last year and 105,592 in 2020.
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.
COVID-19 battered tourism began its recovery in 2021, but arrivals of holidaymakers to were still 50% below the pre-pandemic record of four million.