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Tourism to keep head up high in 2024

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Junior ministry confident despite challenges ahead

Cyprus’ tourism boss, Costas Koumis, is confident that the island will keep its head above war clouds in 2024, with arrivals expected to come close to the record 3.97 mln holidaymakers seen in 2019, for a second year in a row.

Koumis said during a press conference that the Deputy Ministry and stakeholders are aiming to maintain tourist arrivals at the same levels as last year, despite ongoing geopolitical unrest and other unpredictable factors affecting flight schedules.

“In general, the goal for 2024, as the situation has developed, is to achieve a performance similar to the previous year,” Koumis said.

“If you want my take, we will see a deviation of about 30,000 to 50,000 from last year’s arrivals, which could go either way”.

“But for us, it far more important for the industry to continue performing at a high level, despite the challenges and adversities faced, maintaining its good name.

As the deputy minister explained, despite the loss of the Russian tourist market due to the ongoing war in Ukraine and the crisis in Gaza affecting Israel, tourist arrivals in 2023 amounted to 3.85 million.

“This figure marks the third-best historical performance, with an annual increase of 20%, just 3.3% less than the record set in 2019, indicating that the gap left by the loss of the Russian and Ukrainian markets market has been filled.

Additionally, according to the latest data from the World Travel & Tourism Council, the overall contribution of tourism to the Cypriot GDP in 2023 is estimated at 12.8%, up from 12.2% in 2022.

Tourism revenue broke every record in the book in 2023, amounting to €2.99 bln, up from €2.44 bln in 2022, marking a 22.6% increase nominally and 18.4% in real terms, when accounting for inflation, said Koumis.

Regarding the average per capita expenditure in 2023, there was an increase of about 2.1%, reaching €778, compared to €762 in 2022, while daily expenditure rose by 11.6%, from €81 per day in 2022 to €90 in 2023.

Length of stay

The average length of stay for holidaymakers in Cyprus was calculated at 8.6 days for 2023, compared to 9.4 days in 2022, a decrease of 8.5% compared to 2022 and 4.4% compared to 2019.

According to the tourism junior minister, the decrease in the average length of stay is mainly attributed to changes in the tourist mix, particularly the significant increase in the Israeli market, which is characterised by a short duration of stay (4.6 days).

It is also attributed to the decrease in household purchasing power at both pan-European and global levels, resulting in many visitors choosing to reduce their length of stay at the destination.

When it comes to sea arrivals, Koumis said that while 2023 kicked off with promising signs of a new historical record, the war in neighbouring Israel halted the upward trajectory.

The year recorded some 322,000 visitors. For 2024, passenger traffic is expected to decrease due to the significant loss of Israel’s contribution.

Challenges ahead

Koumis pointed out that the challenges confronting Cypriot tourism in 2024 include the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel, broader tensions in the Middle East, economic downturn in Germany and the UK — traditionally Cyprus’s largest tourism market — and the aviation sector crisis caused by engine issues affecting more than 40 airlines.

In terms of air connectivity, the deputy minister said that this year, 55 airlines have scheduled flights to and from Cyprus, the same as in 2023.

Asked about concerns that despite the same number of airliners operating flights to and from the island, available seats will be significantly less, Koumis admitted that the number of available seats will be lower than initially anticipated.

He noted that the initial estimate during the preparation of the 2024 budget was 450,000 additional seats, but there will be a reduction. “We estimate a slight decrease in airline seats. What is more important for us is to maintain arrival levels.”

Responding to questions about tourist market performance, Koumis anticipated an increase from Poland, a small increase from Scandinavian countries, and significant contributions from Balkan countries, especially Romania and Serbia.

He estimated that tourism from the UK and Germany would remain at similar levels, despite economic challenges in these countries.

Regarding the UK market, he anticipated a decrease in April due to the Catholic Easter being earlier this year, followed by a relative decrease until mid-May.

However, Koumis anticipates a strong comeback of the UK market in the early summer months, and higher arrivals in September and October.

The junior minister revealed that estimates show that the traditionally busy period of late July and August, will not be performing so well, as tourists are being deterred by climbing temperatures due to climate change.

€11.2 mln in subsidy schemes

Cyprus’ tourism boss reaffirmed the government’s and the ministry’s commitment to enhancing the island’s tourism product, which will contribute to achieving the sector’s long-term goals, such as extending the tourist season.

“This is why we place great emphasis on enriching our tourism industry, because only with proper investment and, of course, with the corresponding promotion, can we be optimistic about the future,” he stressed.

In this context, Koumis referred to the 16 subsidy schemes implemented by the ministry, with a total provision of €11.24 mln for 2024, of which €8.1 mln will come from the Cyprus parcel of the EU funded Recovery and Resilience Plan.

The largest spending scheme is the Rural, Mountainous, and Remote Areas Revival Plan, which is expected to be announced in a few weeks with a budget of €4 mln, compared to €1.28 mln spent last year, benefiting 82 local authorities.

The second call for the Upgrade of Catering or Traditional Product Retail Stores Plan, launched in November 2023, with an increased budget of €2.5 mln compared to €1.09 mln in the first call.

The plan to encourage foreign sports teams, clubs, associations, and federations for training and preparation in Cyprus was reopened with modifications in 2024, and based on the data, 119 teams have chosen Cyprus, compared to 92 last year.