France has become a major player in the Cyprus holiday market, with the number of French tourists expected to treble this year to 100,000 visitors, said tourism boss Savvas Perdios.
The deputy minister spoke from Paris, where he held meetings with tourism stakeholders.
Authorities have made efforts to increase the number of arrivals of holidaymakers from already established and emerging markets to cover the anticipated shortfall of tourists from Russia and Ukraine.
The Mediterranean Island could lose around 800,000 holidaymakers from Russia, its second-largest market, and Ukraine.
Although authorities admit that losses from the fallout would not be fully replaced, the deputy ministry is optimistic that increased air connectivity to European destinations, such as France, will boost figures.
Perdios noted there were no direct flights between the two countries two years ago.
Last year, with limited air connectivity to France, Cyprus welcomed about 35,000 French tourists.
This year, capacity has jumped to 100,000 aircraft seats on five airlines offering direct flights between Cyprus and large French cities.
There will be 20 scheduled flights a week to and from France carried out by Wizz Air, EasyJet, Ryanair, Tus and Transavia, with flights from Paris, Marseilles, Toulouse, Lyon, and Strasbourg.
“There is an immediate prospect that will translate to increased arrivals for this year, helping us cope with a very difficult year due to the losses from Russia as a result of the Ukrainian crisis,” said Perdios.
He added this opening to France “has never happened before, and it is in the combination of the fact that there is available accommodation due to the Ukrainian crisis, while at the same time there is enthusiasm in France due to the flights.”
He explained that these flights are scheduled and not chartered flights, adding the issue of chartered flights will be put on the table “if the market opens the way we want it”.
“France is the number one country on the ministry’s marketing campaign and where there is enthusiasm for Cyprus’ new tourism identity.
“There is no better time to penetrate the French market.”
The island’s tourism boss said that the prospects of the French market would not be limited to this year.
Perdios urged stakeholders to meet the high standards French tourists expect, “as we did with the British and Russians”.
He said businesses should showcase a product matching what the French want; they know about culture, history, food and wine and are looking for something authentic.
“We have been trying to enter this market for three years, and I believe this is the year we will succeed.”