Despite losing ground in the Russian and Ukrainian markets due to the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia, Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios was optimistic on Tuesday that this year's tourist arrivals could catch up with 2021 from the promotion of other markets, which may fill part of the gap from Cyprus' second largest tourist market.
"Our product is more durable, the perception of what Cyprus is has begun to differentiate, we bring tourism with a higher income level. We will do everything in our power to make things as good as possible under the circumstances," said Perdios, speaking online to the parliamentary Trade Committee, which examined the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis in the tourism industry.
"we too should abolish the Cyprus Flight Pass for foreigners as well as Cypriots as soon as possible and at the same time relax safe pass requirements" -Loizides
He said that both the Ministry and tour operators are operating in the worst-case scenario, which is the complete loss of 800,000 tourists expected from Russia and Ukraine.
He explained that the gap of Russian tourists, which corresponds to 20% to 25% of the estimated tourist flow this year is difficult to fill since Russian tourists travel mainly through tour operators. "At the moment there is no other market that can bring such numbers through organized packages," he added.
He stressed, however, that although the Russian market, the second-largest market in Cyprus, could not be replaced in its entirety, there were significant prospects from countries such as Germany, Israel, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Sweden and Hungary, a perspective created by the actions of the Tourism Ministry, the Ministry of Transport and Hermes Airports. He noted that these countries will have 20 to 40 flights each, compared to about 100 flights a week coming from Russia.
"Last year on average planes were at around 70% capacity. This year, if we manage to increase capacity to 85%-90% through our action plan and without increasing the number of routes, we will be talking about an additional 200,000 to 250,000 seats, compared to what we expected to have," he said, adding that the United Kingdom and Israel are dynamic and in fact will be open markets from the beginning of the season in contrast to 2021.
"At least for this year we are ignoring the numbers from 2019, we must focus on catching up to last year`s numbers", he added.
Finally, he announced measures to strengthen domestic tourism, saying that at the moment the Tourism Ministry is making calculations and will provide information in due course.
The President of the Cyprus Hotel Association, Haris Loizides, said that with the work done in recent years, the Tourism Ministry can now focus on the markets from which there are flights. "And I totally agree that we need to push these flights to 80%-85% capacity to make up for the losses," he added.
"We have always been criticized for relying only on Britain and Russia. It`s easy to criticize from the couch. However, the 9 markets mentioned earlier are not new markets, they are traditional ones from which there was a lack of flights for years," he said.
Meanwhile, in statements after the Committee meeting, Loizides expressed the view that as countries gradually lift anti-pandemic measures for travelers, "we too should abolish the Cyprus Flight Pass for foreigners as well as Cypriots as soon as possible and at the same time relax safe pass requirements, which is compulsory in and around the tourism industry on the island."