Cyprus hopes to see an influx of tourists from neighbouring Israel after the country warned its citizens to cancel Turkey holiday plans following the arrest of Iranian agents, allegedly planning attacks on Israeli targets.
According to Israeli media, Iranian agents were arrested by Turkish authorities with the collaboration of Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, while the second team of would-be assassins is said to be in the country.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry warned citizens to abandon plans to visit Turkey immediately.
The development has Cyprus tourism stakeholders hoping the island will benefit from Israeli tourists rescheduling their holidays.
Charis Papacharalambous, the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents (ACTA) spokesperson, told the Financial Mirror that stakeholders are waiting to see how events unfold.
“Tourism markets are particularly volatile following the coronavirus and the war in Ukraine.
“The closure of a neighbouring competitive market will definitely work in our favour. We will just have to wait and see to what extent,” said Papacharalambous.
He noted that Cyprus tourism would not like to see negative developments in the region, but it welcomed any influx of tourists, which could help close the gap left by Russian and Ukrainian tourists.
Due to the war, Cyprus will miss out on 800,000 tourists from Russia and Ukraine.
Travel agents say that Turkey has dropped from being Israelis’ number one choice for a summer getaway this season, being replaced by Greece, then Cyprus.
Tel Aviv daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Louis Hotels official Samantha Andrianou, saying the group has seen a 50% increase in bookings from Israeli families compared to last year.
Israel was the island’s third-largest tourist market in 2019 – behind the UK and Russia – with 300,000 airport arrivals and 40,000 arriving on cruise ships.
Pre-COVID, over 53% of Cyprus’ record 3.97 mln tourists in 2019 came from the UK (33.5%) and Russia (19.7%).
COVID-19 battered tourism began its recovery in 2021, but arrivals of holidaymakers were still 50% below the pre-pandemic record of four million.
Passenger traffic at Larnaca and Paphos in May recorded a 22% decrease compared to 2019.
Some 885,000 passengers went through the two airports last month – 634,000 more than the same period last year.
And 2.5 million passengers walked through Cyprus airport gates in the first five months of the year.