NICOSIA — Taking a bet that's paying off – opening to tourists with proof of COVID-19 vaccinations, negative tests or recovery – Cyprus is seeing air traffic picking up already in May, hoping for a cavalcade to come.
Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos tweeted that in the first nine days of May, air passenger traffic accounted for 59 percent of that for the whole of April, reported the Chinese news agency Xinhua.
Air flights in the first nine days of May reached 43.6 percent of those for the whole of April, he also said.
"With steady steps and good omens, we are entering the summer season with increased flights and strong interest from airlines. As we improve our epidemiological picture, our air connectivity and tourism will also see the benefits," Karousos said as the country eases out of another lockdown.
Tourism fell 93 percent in the first three months of the year when people weren't allowed to enter, another blow after a brutal 2020 that saw beaches and resorts essentially empty in an eerie look for a popular island and warm weather draw.
Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said there has been a flow of tourists from Sweden as well as from Russia, the second-largest market for Cyprus, the island home to many Russians and a favorite place for the rich to hide money.
He said that more tourists from northern European countries are expected but all eyes are on when those from the former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom, the biggest market, will be allowed to travel.
Hermes Airports, the operators of the island's two international airports at Larnaca and Paphos, said a total of 220 flights are expected this week, compared with about 35 flights a week in April, picking up more.
Cyprus counts on tourism for the restart of its economy, as the tourism and travel sectors contribute about 25 percent to the country's annual economy.
Maria Kouroupi, a senior official with Hermes, told Xinhua that flights from the UK are expected to pick up in June as various airlines, including British Airways, began adding flights to their schedules.
Tourists are the biggest revenue engine for Cyprus, bringing in some 25 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 20.56 billion euros ($24.95 billion,) needed more than ever to bring a post-pandemic recovery.