12° Nicosia,
23 July, 2024

Easter holiday boosts air travel in Cyprus by 26%

Over 450 thousand passengers travel through Larnaca and Paphos airports in two weeks

Maria Eracleous

Maria Eracleous

April will kick off the summer tourist season with satisfactory arrivals and hotel occupancies for the Easter period. Since last week, demand for travel has started to rise from foreign tourists, while residents of Cyprus have also shown an increased preference for a trip to Greece and European destinations for the upcoming week. This has resulted in a 26% increase in passenger traffic compared to April 2022. Mobility is also recorded in hotels and tourist accommodations within Cyprus, with an estimated overall occupancy rate of around 50% for the first two weeks of April. Of course, higher-than-average occupancies are expected in the tourist coastal areas of Paphos and the free Famagusta region. As tourism officials explain to "K", the performance of Easter is indicative of what will follow for the rest of the summer season, and things seem to be positive. Reservations are better than last year, and performance is approaching 2019 levels.

Almost half a million passengers

The average occupancy rate for the first two weeks of April is estimated to be around 65% in the hotels of Paphos.

The data from Hermes Airports provides a clearer picture of the Easter period's passenger traffic volume during the first two weeks of April. According to Maria Kouroupi, Senior Director of Aviation Development, Marketing, and Communications at Hermes Airports, there has been an increase in passenger traffic in the following days due to the Easter holidays. Specifically, more than 450,000 people will travel to and from both airports in Cyprus during the first two weeks, with Larnaca Airport serving approximately 310,000 passengers and Paphos Airport serving around 148,000 passengers. Furthermore, this year's April recorded a 26% increase in passenger traffic compared to April 2022, with an average occupancy rate of almost 80%. The countries that have stood out and continue to show an upward trend, besides the United Kingdom, are Greece, Israel, Germany, and Poland.

Better than last year

"It is the first peak of the tourist industry for this year and reflects the rest of the season," said Haris Papacharalambous, spokesperson for Acta, speaking to "K". Therefore, it is estimated that the rest of the season will follow suit. The indications are positive, as described by the general director of PASYXE Philokypros Rousounidis, who mentions that we are starting the summer tourist season on the right foot. This is already reflected in the levels of tourist flow for the Easter period. The markets that dominate hotel reservations come mainly from the UK, Scandinavia, and Poland. The markets that are slightly above last year's numbers, such as Polish tourists, prefer Paphos and Limassol, while Scandinavians tend to choose holidays in Ayia Napa and Protaras. Despite the positive signs, the season will pick up from May onwards. For now, most hotels, mainly in free Famagusta, have not opened. Most are in the process of opening, and by mid-April, the overwhelming majority of units will have operated.

Satisfied in Paphos

The average occupancy rates for the first two weeks of April in Paphos hotels are estimated at around 65%. According to the president of PASYXE Paphos, Thanos Michaelides, this week tourists - mainly families from the United Kingdom, Poland, and Germany - are on holiday, taking advantage of the Catholic Easter break (April 9). Next week, the hotels will welcome local tourism - at least those who choose to celebrate Orthodox Easter (April 16) with a holiday in Cyprus. Of course, the volume of tourists will be significantly lower, and the duration of the holidays will be shorter, 1-2 nights, compared to foreign tourists whose average holiday duration is one week. After the first two weeks, hotel occupancy rates in Paphos decrease significantly, with the percentage hovering around 60% for the entire month.

+20% from last year

Occupancy rates at hotels in Ayia Napa and Protaras are better than last year, which started opening on April 1st and will continue to open until the end of April and early May. The president of the Ammochostos Hoteliers Association, Doros Takkas, gave an indication of how the Easter period will move tourism-wise. As he mentioned, hotels that have opened seem to have better occupancy rates than in 2022. Overall, on average, April and May will perform slightly better than last year. This is an average increase of around 20%. As for the tourist markets, there are no surprises and none are expected, so hotel reservations are coming from the United Kingdom, Poland, and Scandinavian countries. It should be noted that the estimates are for the period until the end of May, as the tourist flow is largely driven by last-minute reservations.

Short getaways

At the same time, Cypriots are traveling non-stop. After the middle of 2022 when the coronavirus was pushed to the margins, Cypriots, like European travelers, returned to their pre-COVID-19 habits. As a result, demand for travel has increased significantly since the end of 2022. This trend continues in the first few months of 2023. There is considerable demand for the Easter period. According to Mr. Papacharalambous, Cypriots choose mainly short getaways of 3-4 days and prefer Greek destinations by far, as their vacations are related to religious holidays. Corfu and the Greek islands are their first choice, mainly those in the Ionian Sea, while the mainland regions of Greece, such as the Peloponnese and of course Athens and Thessaloniki, are high on their list of preferences. Beyond that, European destinations are mostly in demand - Italy, France, Austria, Germany, Poland and of course the UK. Most residents of Cyprus who choose to vacation during this period have pre-purchased holiday packages at fixed prices for some time. However, those who choose to spend Easter abroad and are making their reservation now will inevitably find higher prices. Nevertheless, at least so far, the cost of air tickets does not seem to be prohibitive.  For example, until yesterday, on a well-known airfare search website, the ticket cost for Larnaca - Athens (round trip) from Good Friday until Easter Monday starts at 225 euros.

Increase until October

Regarding the period that will follow after Easter, there continues to be a noticeable increase, which according to the data available to the management company of the airports of Larnaca and Paphos, will last until October. As Mrs. Kouroupi reports, the connectivity of the country has now been significantly strengthened with direct connections to 38 countries with 140 destinations and 50 airlines, so there are many different opportunities for both the residents of Cyprus and anyone who wants to travel to and from Cyprus. She expresses optimism that the summer period will continue to have the momentum of the first months of the year, which recorded the highest number of passengers ever recorded at the airports in Cyprus. However, recently the Airports Council International (ACI Europe) released passenger traffic data for European airports, which showed that Cyprus airports had the highest arrivals, recording an impressive 92%, along with Malta. "Our goal is for 2023 to approach the numbers we saw in 2019, the year with the best performance in terms of passenger traffic," she notes. 

[This article first appeared in Kathimerini's Oikonomiki edition and was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  tourism

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