Gap left by Russian tourists unfilled

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The loss of tourists from Russia due to sanctions for invading Ukraine has taken its toll on tourism-dependent businesses, including car rentals in popular resorts like Ayia Napa.

Car rental associations sound the alarm, warning that many companies will be forced to shut down by the end of the summer, as the war in Ukraine adds to losses recorded during two years of the coronavirus pandemic.

The local car rental businesses in Famagusta, where the loss of the Russian market is felt the most, say their turnover is still below pre-coronavirus 2019 levels.

In comments to news site Philenews, the head of Famagusta’s car rental businesses association, Nicos Stylianou, said their turnover is less than 30% of 2019.

Stylianou said despite government efforts to bring holidaymakers from other markets, “things are not the same without the Russian tourists”.

“Tourists from other markets, namely the Scandinavians and the British, cannot fill the gap of the Russian market as they have different habits.

“Scandinavians, for example, prefer to stay in their hotel.

“All-inclusive deals are an additional blow since even the few people who are here do not leave their hotels,” argued Stylianou.

He said in Famagusta alone (Ayia Napa, Protaras, Paralimni), there are 100 businesses active in the car and motorbike rental sector, employing several hundred people.

“I used to employ six people.

“With the new season, I was just able to keep four of them.

“Today, I was able to rent out a car for one day for €50.

“There are other businesses who haven’t rented a vehicle in days.”

Based on the forecasts that 2022 would be a good tourist year, large investments were made by companies to renew their fleet, inactive for almost two years during the pandemic.

“Everyone was waiting for the year to be better.

“We hope the situation will change in the summer, but we do not see it happening because the car and motorcycle rental sector is 70% dependent on the Russian market,” said Stylianou.

He added that companies organising bus tours across the island have also taken a hit, as they used to work exclusively with Russians.

“There was a wide range of bus tours that Russians were very interested in. But unfortunately, the majority of excursion companies have not reopened following the pandemic.

“Apart from organising one-day excursions for British tourists. Usually, there would be 15-20 trips a day this time of year.

“The loss of the Russians cannot be replaced.”

Before the pandemic, Russia was the island’s second-largest tourist market behind the UK.

Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said around 800,000 tourists from Russia and Ukraine were expected on the island for a holiday getaway this year before the war changed that.

Pre-COVID, 33.5% of Cyprus’ 4 mln tourists in 2019 came from its largest market, the UK and 19.7% from Russia.