The Cypriot Tourism Cannot Afford A Second Wasted Year
The tourism sector in Cyprus is in dire straits because of the consequences of COVID-19. Officials have been warning for months that the pandemic’s impact on tourism – one of the most critical sectors of the Cypriot economy – would be huge for 2020; however, the data so far indicate a future that could be worse than initially estimated.
The Ministry of Tourism predicted a reduction in tourist arrivals of 70% -75%; however, the figures until August show a decrease of almost 85%. Particularly, from January to August 2020, tourist arrivals totaled 424.850 compared to 2.735.839 in the corresponding period of 2019, a decrease of 84,5%. The revised target set by the Deputy Ministry of Tourism is at 20% of last year’s record four million arrivals.
Moreover, according to the Cyprus Statistical Service, the arrivals of tourists reached 104.261 in August 2020, compared to 553.845 in August 2019, a decrease of 81,2%. In March 2020, Cyprus imposed travel limitations on several categories of persons, including tourists, until to 8/6/2020, as part of the measures taken to prevent the spread of the pandemic. However, from 9/6/2020, the authorities implemented a gradual easing of the restrictions, allowing the arrivals from specific states, based on their epidemiological risk assessment, conducted by the Ministry of Health.
Tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom, the biggest market for Cypriot tourism, decreased by 87,4% in January-August 2019 compared to the same period last year. A decrease of 68% was also recorded for tourists from Germany, arrivals from Poland decreased by 52,6%, arrivals from Greece decreased by 59.4%, those from Switzerland went down by 68,2% and from Austria by 67,5%. Even worse, essential markets for Cyprus’ tourism sector, such as Russia and Israel, are still closed for travel due to the measures taken to contain the pandemic.
With four months remaining until the end of the year, hoteliers and other tourism-related professionals have accepted that 2020 will be the worst year ever for the country’s tourism sector. However, the Deputy Minister of Tourism Savvas Perdios does not give up on the battle and states that it is still too early to write off the entire year, given that there are still four months until the end of 2020 and that Cyprus is open for business. “If Cyprus opens to the Russian and Israeli markets in the next weeks, there will be interest from these markets. The results for September, October and November are not predetermined,” he said. Of course, few have high hopes, since 20% of last year’s arrivals corresponds to only 800,000 tourists.
With just over 400,000 tourists visiting the island in the first eight months of the year, the arrival of so many more in half the time will be anything but an easy task. Monthly arrivals will need to exceed 100,000. Data reveal how important the tourism sector is for the Cypriot economy. National revenue from tourism exceeded $4.7 billion in 2019, a huge amount for a country whose GDP is just over $25 billion. The industry provides 60,143 beds in 1-5-star hotels, while the total availability in beds is 90,435. Last year, the occupancy rate in Cypriot hotels was 71.8%, the second highest among competing Mediterranean countries. Occupancy rates this year surely won’t be as high, but everyone hopes that in 2021 the situation will be much better. After all, Cyprus is considered one of the countries that best managed the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Deep Knowledge Group ranking it 26th among 200 countries. Neither the private sector, nor the banks, nor the government can afford a second lost year in tourism.