Deputy Minister of Tourism Savvas Perdios met with tour operators in London in an effort to fill the gap in this year’s tourist arrivals which will be affected by the war in Ukraine.
Perdios told CNA on Saturday that “we are working based on the worst-case scenario, meaning that arrivals from Russia and Ukraine are expected to be nil this year”.
The aim of the visit is to evaluate and increase the arrival of tourists from Britain which will fill the gap in arrivals and revenues from Russia and Ukraine.
Noting that the gap is by no means insignificant, he said visitors from these countries were up to 800 thousand, which amounts to a fifth of the overall number of tourists.
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.
These markets include Scandinavian countries Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Hungary and also Israel which abstained from the tourist market in the last couple of years due to the pandemic. However, he said there has been a comparatively significant upgrade from France.
Whereas there was no direct connection to the country, now there are 20 weekly flights from three airports serving Paris but also from cities such as Marseilles and Toulouse, among others.
There are 100 thousand available airline seats for Cyprus this year with an array of companies offering them.
Towards the end of the year, there will be an opening from the Saudi Arabian market which has tremendous potential from where up to eight flights per week are estimated, he added.
As far as the United Kingdom is concerned, Perdios said there is a “very strong demand” and the interest has surpassed the expectations of the British market players as conveyed to Perdios during his visit to London in November.
Arrivals from the UK are expected to reach one million this year.
“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.
Market sources note the fluidity of the situation created by the war in Ukraine significantly affects competitive markets that have a particular relationship or proximity to Russia, such as Bulgaria or Croatia. This "obliges" in a sense British tour operators to be more flexible, something that Cyprus is fully exploiting.
He said that even if there are no additional flights, the arrivals’ dynamic is increasing.
For this year predictions estimate similar arrivals as last year, namely 2 million.
Together with the increase in arrivals, the Deputy Minister of Tourism expects an increase in revenues, as the markets that are opening have travellers with high per capita expenditure. Visitors from countries such as Switzerland, for example, or France are not generally oriented towards all-inclusive holiday packages, a practice that is more common for visitors from Russia and other countries.
This change in the requirements of tourists, however, also poses a challenge for the private sector, said Perdios, and every hotelier will have to be flexible and possibly modify their product.
At the same time, he said hoteliers will need to make targeted advertising. For this reason, he will bring in contact with tour operators and the hoteliers’ association to understand the demands and habits of French visitors which may be different from those of Russians.
Perdios also held initial discussions in London to attract travellers from the US with Britain acting as a stopover.
This possibility is created by the high connectivity between the US and Britain and Britain-Cyprus, allowing for the prospect of entering the US tourist market.