NICOSIA -- They're close in more than language and culture but passenger traffic between Cyprus and Greece dropped up to 80 percent during this COVID-19 pandemic year of 2020 that saw international air traffic grind to a near-halt.
Greece is the first choice for Cypriot holidaymakers but they were confined to their island for most of the year, reflecting the plummeting number of trips, said Greek National Tourism (GNTO) Director Athena Spakouri.
She told The Cyprus News Agency there was anxiety when, and whether, it would pick up again, with both countries awaiting the arrival of vaccines and how long and deep the pandemic would linger into 2021 or butt up against summer.
“According to data collected from the ‘Cyprus Flight Pass’ platform, we estimated that in July and August 65 percent less people travelled from Cyprus to Greece compared with the same month last year. That figure rose to a staggering 80 percent in September,” she said.
“Greece is always the most popular travel destination for Cypriots, more than the UK and the rest of Europe.But, due to the pandemic, people so far this year were more cautious as far as travelling is concerned, which resulted in cancelled hotel bookings and flights at a huge economic loss for Greece.”
Cutting into that further are restrictions between traveling during the Christmas and New Year period that is a big period for Cypriots to go to Greece, as well as Greeks wanting to go to Cypriots, the countries with shared roots and residents.
“It is difficult to assess whether there will be an increase in traffic between Greece and Cyprus during the holidays. We are still dealing with the pandemic and we might be forced to do so for the upcoming months as well. People are still afraid to travel and we cannot make predictions for now.”
She said there won't be a recovery until the pandemic ends and lockdowns lift but with worry people still might not travel, fearing for their safety despite strict health protocols and hygiene programs.
Spakouri said that the ferry link between the two countries was now more crucial than ever, 20 years after it was suspended, people preferring a far shorter air travel time that was also cheaper.
Earlier, Cyprus’ Deputy Shipping Minister Vassilis Demetriades said the launch of a ferry service from Cyprus to Greece in May, 2021 was a realistic objective. “I firmly believe the link will give potential visitors from Cyprus more options for travelling. Therefore, we need to make it work as soon as possible,” he said.