The arrival of 11 tourists in Cyprus, through the country's legal airports, and then a number of them arriving in the occupied areas, is not a daily phenomenon. It is a problem that has been a long-standing concern for the tourism sector in the country, but this year, however, the reactions expressed mainly on the part of professionals in Famagusta are more pronounced. The impression is that this year the number is higher than in previous years. At least this is what the estimates from the Cyprus Ηotel Association.
Specifically, the honorary president of Cyprus Ηotel Association, Harris Loizides, told K that while 3-4 years ago it was around 5% of tourist arrivals, now it seems that this percentage is twice as high. It is documented that around 10% of tourist arrivals seem to end up in the occupied territories. The phenomenon at the Airport Arrivals Area is visually intense, as described in the K, with the number of Turkish Cypriot tourist vans ever increasing, and according to the chairman of the Taxi Road Association, there are large numbers of parked Turkish Cypriot vans in the wider Larnaca Airport area. At the same time, Turkish Cypriot press reports indicate an increase in the total number of passengers arriving in the occupied territories, although this, in the absence of specific measurements and data on the matter, can certainly not be linked to the leakage of tourists from the free areas to the accommodation in the occupied territories.
"Since some people claim that there is an increased turnout to the occupied territories, we have to have measurements, we cannot limit on estimates", the Deputy Minister of Tourism stressed.
In response to reports from the summer tourist season, the Commission has been informed of the following "K" reports data and specific numbers so that we know exactly the extent of the problem. However, so far it appears that such data - at least recently - concerning this year are not available. By way of illustration, the last survey was carried out by Hermes Airports (the survey is in the process of being updated), last April, and it showed that 4 % of arriving passengers were arriving in the occupied territories, with the largest numbers coming from the markets of Israel, Poland and Slovakia. This is a small percentage of total arrivals, although estimates suggest that this percentage is increasing.
The main thing is therefore to carry out an investigation on the matter by the competent bodies so that there is a clear picture of the magnitude of the problem, and the extent to which this imminent problem can be used to justify the lower-than-expected rates in the hotels of the free regions. For his part, the Deputy Minister of Tourism Costas Koumitis spoke to "K" on the subject, stating that he is in the process of investigating the issue and recalling that there are still no measurements or data for this year. He stressed, however, that statistical measurements are an integral part of tourism and a very important tool, therefore, he said characteristically that "since some people claim that there is a self-important influx of tourists to the occupied territories, we must have measurements, we cannot limit ourselves to estimates".
Whether there will be data available this year to be able to deal more effectively with the situation is a matter of concern for tourism operators, since they will be able to know what percentage of tourists are leaking into the occupied territories and take the necessary measures.
Even though there is no research and no specific data, it is nevertheless taken for granted that any leakages in the occupied territories affect the free Famagusta, with the rates of leakages from hotels in the region being lower than those from hotels in Paphos. In particular, Paphos because it is a province with much lower exposure to the Russian market, but also tourist inflows from a wider range of markets.
Speaking to "K" the new president of Cyprus Ηotel Association Famagusta Panagiotis Konstantinou, gave a picture, describing that hotels operate with lower levels of flat rates than expected while it is suspected that the difference is understood in the occupied territories. In any case, the increased number of arrivals does not seem to be reflected in the booking of tourist beds. He stressed the need to carry out a study and draw a specific conclusion so that the companies themselves know how to handle the issue. These stamps were freely available in Famagusta and were mainly supplied by tourists from Great Britain, Poles, Israelis, and central Europeans. The next stage is planned to promote the region to Scandinavian and Arab countries as well as markets such as Germany and Italy. We have a large majority of British, the rest are central Europeans, Poles, and a portion from Israel.
However, Koumas commented that in any case, this year's tourism performance is better compared to last year. In anticipation of the statistics on tourist arrivals in June, we have analyzed the passenger figures from the Hermes Airports website. This shows that in the first half of the year, 3.2 million passengers traveled to and from Larnaca Airport and 1.55 million to Paphos Airport. In total, 4.8 million passengers (inbound and outbound), 122 thousand more compared to the same period in 2019. At the level of hotel rates, according to Cyprus Ηotel Association, in June these averaged around 70% with the best performances reaching 85%. In July, average platitudes are improving and are expected to be between 80-90%, while the pickings are expected to slow down in August and September.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]