NICOSIA – With Russian airlines barred by European Union sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine, Cyprus is looking to those from the United Kingdom who had largely stayed away because of COVID-19 returning in 2022.
Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said that’s part of the plan to make up the difference for the loss of Russians, who are the second-biggest number of arrival annually – those from the UK are first.
After meeting tour operators in London Perdios said that there’s “very strong demand” from the British and the UK who had mostly been prohibited from traveling because of pandemic health restrictions.
He said that arrivals from the UK are expected to reach one million this year, still far below the nearly 1.4 million that came in a record-busting 2019 before the pandemic struck hard in 2020.
“I think this is an encouraging picture which is due to the timely activation of a plan we made weeks before the war, to deal with every eventuality,” he said, reported The Cyprus News Agency.
“We are working based on the worst-case scenario, meaning that arrivals from Russia and Ukraine are expected to be nil this year,” he said, Cyprus being home to big numbers of Russians and Russian investors too, its wealthy using Cypriot banks.
“To fill this gap, we are turning to markets that we have been working on for years and now we are being awarded increased connectivity,” Perdios added, citing Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Hungary and Israel.
Cyprus also reached out to France – there hadn’t been direct flights but now there are 20 weekly three airports serving Paris but also from cities such as Marseilles and Toulouse, among others.
There are 100,000 available airline seats for Cyprus from growing numbers of air carriers who want to connect and the news agency noted by the end of 2022, past the peak period, that up to eight flights could come from Saudia Arabia weekly.
Cyprus is reluctantly going along with the sanctions keeping out the Russian airlines but the government said that could be reevaluated and bring a break in unity if too many tourists go to Turkey, which rejected the penalties.
Estimates for annual arrivals could aproach 2 million in 2022 and Perdios said he expects a rise in revenues and hopes for more spending per visitor.
Tourism arrivals in Cyprus in 2021 jumped 206.7 percent over the lockdown year of 2020 but aren’t all the way back and won’t reach 2019 levels this year, the data from the Statistical Service of Cyprus (CyStat) indicated.