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Eager for UK Tourists, Cyprus Must Wait for May 17 Decision

Αssociated Press

People enjoy the sun and the sea at the beach in Larnaca costal city in southeast Mediterranean island of Cyprus, on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. P(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA -- Cyprus won’t know until May 17 whether visitors from its biggest tourism market, The United Kingdom, will be allowed to travel, keen on getting them to boost an economy brought down by COVID-19 lockdowns.

British Premier Boris Johnson deferred the decision as the UK has picked up vaccinations after he was accused of being too lenient and favoring keeping businesses open over saving lives.

“Obviously we are hopeful that we can get going from May 17th, but I do not wish to give hostages to fortune or to underestimate the difficulties that we are seeing in some of the destination countries that people might want to go to,” Johnson told a news conference, said The Cyprus Mail.

His government is weighing which countries would be safe for Britons to visit, including Cyprus, which had been a colony and has a vast community of ex-patriates from the UK.

So-called “Green Light” countries that would only require Coronavirus tests before and after travel so far include Portugal, Malta, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

The uncertainty hit the Cypriot tourism industry hard, many businesses saying they won’t survive unless the country reopens to visitors after being brought to a virtual standstill when the pandemic raged in 2020.

Noel Josephides, chairman of travel group Sunvil, a travel agency specializing in travel to Cyprus, Greece and other European destinations, said the industry needs weeks of notice to reopen hotels and resume flight routes.

“It is not possible to launch a tour operation with one or two weeks’ notice,” he said, indicating that May17 is already too late to save the spring and critical summer months for tourism businesses, as well as suppliers.

Lakis Avraamides, President of the marketing department for the hotel association told the paper that, “The fact that a decision has been postponed means that the worst-case scenario has not yet happened, which would be the continued ban on travel.”

In 2018, UK tourists made up 30 percent of Cyprus’ market which drew 3,938,625 people during a run of record years as the economy was blossoming after a banking and economic crisis in 2013.