Still hoping tourists will dare to travel when lockdowns aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus are lifted – and international air traffic picks up – Cyprus especially wants them from the United Kingdom, the island's former colonial ruler.
The island is also packed with British ex-pats and tourists from the UK are an important market, leading Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Peridios to tell Sun Online Travel: "We love taking care of the British people.
"There are a lot of British people living here. Whenever others are ready to visit our island we will welcome them with open arms,” he said.
Close to one million Brits flew out to the Mediterranean hotspot last year with most heading to its coastal resorts, the British newspaper The Sun said in a feature about Cyprus hoping it could open resorts and beaches as soon as June although it's not known what kind of health protocols or social distancing would be in effect.
He spoke after he earlier indicated that British tourists would likely not be in the first wave of people who wanted to holiday on the island, if they are willing to take the risk and the uncertainty in the post-COVID 19 world.
In an interview with the Cyprus media earlier, he said: "The important thing is that travel agents have Cyprus in mind…there are positive signs from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Nordic countries, Greece, Israel and perhaps the Netherlands."
He now has added that, "We don’t have preferences based on nationality. The ideal case scenario is for everyone to be able to come. We have always been a hospitable country. We have been welcoming people for decades, especially from the UK, which is one of our most important markets. And that is never going to change.”
Vassilis Stamataris who heads the Cyprus Association of Travel Agents said: “We are a hospitality industry and do not discriminate. Of course we want them here… we were very sorry about them leaving the EU but as in most European countries the Ministry of Health is in charge now,” and that plans could change if the virus resurges.
Perdios explained that the tourist industry employed one in five in the island’s workforce and, as such, was crucial to the island’s economy.
He said: “At first the policies shocked our source markets but we thought the earlier we took this strong-handed approach, the earlier we could draft an exit strategy,” he told the paper.
He added: “Hospitals, airports, hotels, restaurants, bars, beaches, public transport, taxi services, we want everything to be ready by mid-June at latest.
"If customers can’t come until early July that’s not the end of the world. We want to be ready so that when Europe, as a whole says ‘Let's ease travel restrictions’ we can immediately accept and welcome people.”