NICOSIA, Cyprus – Cyprus doesn’t expect to see this year more than 20%-25% of the record 3.97 million vacationing visitors the Mediterranean island nation welcomed in 2019 because the coronavirus pandemic has so far shut out its key tourist markets, the country’s deputy tourism minister said Wednesday.
Savvas Perdios said tourism-generated revenue will fall accordingly this year, and he warned that the industry may experience a longer-lasting impact from the pandemic than other sectors of Cyprus’ economy.
“People are likely be more cautious about travelling overseas,” Perdios told The Associated Press.
Tourism directly contributes more than 13% to Cyprus’ 22 billion-euro ($26 billion) economy. But Perdios said there’s a silver lining to the gloomy forecasts as tourism arrivals are expected to eventually rebound with younger travellers leading the way.
Cyprus managed to contain the spread of COVID-19 by imposing a strict lockdown and night-time curfew between March and June. Authorities hoped to attract vacationers after international commercial flights resumed on June 9.
But the country also has taken a cautious approach to reopening in order to prevent a COVID-19 resurgence through imported cases. The government established a tiered system for travel restrictions that groups other nations based on their coronavirus infection rates.
Travellers from some 21 medium-risk, Category B countries are required to obtain health certificates declaring them virus-free three days before boarding flights to Cyprus. Travellers from Category C countries must undergo a 14-day quarantine on arrival.
The United Kingdom – Cyprus’ prime market for tourists – is set to be promoted to Category B on Aug. 1, but Perdios said the compulsory health certificates present an obstacle. British tour operators are reluctant to organize vacation packages to Cyprus as long as the U.K. remains in category ‘B’.
“We expect that for as long as U.K. will be in Category B…we will be receiving approximately 25% of the usual performance of the market, mainly from individual travellers,” Perdios said.
Cyprus’ other key tourist markets – Russia and Israel – are currently relegated to Category C.
“At this stage, public health is the country’s top priority, No compromises could be done on health issues,” Perdios said.