Tourists from Cyprus’ three largest markets, the UK, Russia, and Israel, must pay to enter the island next year after an EU decision subjecting all third-country nationals to a visa waiver fee.
Under the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), charges are expected to be enacted in May 2023.
Plans to introduce a visa waiver security check will mean travellers must apply to enter the Schengen zone – which includes most EU nations in mainland Europe – and pay a fee before travelling.
ETIAS affects UK travellers as, since Brexit, they are considered third-country citizens.
The visa waiver will apply to travellers aged between 18-70. It is expected to cost around £6 or €7.
This will mean that while UK and Israeli passport holders do not need a visa to visit EU Schengen zone countries as tourists, they can be turned away at the border if their ETIAS application is not approved before their trip.
The EU commission says a form should take 10 minutes to fill. Applicants will need a passport or equivalent document to apply.
According to its website: “The system will conduct checks against EU information systems for borders and security and, in the vast majority of cases, issue a travel authorisation within minutes.
“The ETIAS travel authorisation will be a mandatory pre-condition for entry to the Schengen area. It will be checked together with the travel documents by the border guards when crossing the EU border.”
Travel agents in the UK believe travellers eyeing Cyprus for a summer getaway next year will not be deterred by the small fee and paperwork needed to get on a plane.
“Following the pandemic which saw travellers undergo PCR tests, fill in forms, now, travellers from the UK, Israel and Russia, when the war is over, will fill in more paperwork just to get on a plane,” said Noel Josephides, former chair of the association of independent UK tour operators (AITO).
“After more than two years of COVID, people are hungry for travel.
“Yes, the visa waiver requirement will be a pain for many travellers, but at the end of the day, this is outweighed by people’s desire to fly from the UK for a long-awaited getaway,” said Josephides.
Pre-COVID, over 53% of Cyprus’ 3.97 mln tourists in 2019 came from the UK (33.5%) and Russia (19.7%).
Israel was the island’s third-largest tourist market, with 300,000 airport arrivals and 40,000 arriving on cruise ships.
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 were still 50% below the pre-pandemic record of four million.
ETIAS will be a largely automated IT system created to identify security, irregular migration or high epidemic risks posed by visa-exempt visitors travelling to the Schengen states whilst facilitating crossing borders for the vast majority who do not pose such risks.
The ETIAS Regulation applies to Member States that are part of the Schengen area, including those which do not yet fully apply to the Schengen acquis, Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Romania.