Tourist arrivals in Cyprus plunged 85.3 percent in the first seven months of this year, reflecting the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on one of the main economic sectors of the eastern Mediterranean island, the Statistical Service of Cyprus (CYSTAT) said on Wednesday.
It said arrivals from January to the end of July totaled 320,589 compared with 2,181,994 in the same period of 2019. About two-thirds of this year’s tourists had arrived up to the middle of March, before the COVID-19 crisis hit Cyprus. No tourist arrivals were recorded in April and May.
After the lifting of a total lockdown in the country, just 9,119 tourists arrived in June, and the number went up to 64,914 in July, a year-on-year drop of 88.2 percent.
Tourism contributes almost 22 percent to Cyprus’ annual GDP of 21.9 billion euros provisionally estimated for 2019.
Greece was its main source of tourists in July, followed by Germany, but no arrivals were recorded from the United Kingdom, traditionally the biggest tourist source for Cyprus.
Britain was included in Group B countries, from where travelers are required to have a negative coronavirus test before boarding.
However, the fact that there are no major laboratories undertaking coronavirus tests outside the National Health Service, plus the high cost of the test, prevented Britons from coming to Cyprus.
Deputy Minister of Tourism Savvas Perdios said on Tuesday that Cyprus does not expect many tourists from the United Kingdom even after Jet2, Britain’s second biggest tour operator, resumed flights to Cyprus as of Monday.
“Our expectations are low, although we are happy that the British market opened as Category B and despite the fact that yesterday Jet2, with whom we had an agreement, began bringing tourists from the UK to Cyprus,” Perdios said.
He said his ministry is targeting other countries, such as France, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Austria and Germany, which have been added to the flight program of budget airline Wizz Air, a Hungarian low-cost airline, to offset the loss of the British market.
“These are the markets that are completely harmonized with what we want to achieve as a ministry,” Perdios said.
Tourist arrivals in Cyprus reached 4 million in 2019, about four times the island’s population. (1 euro =1.19 U.S. dollars)