The number of Russian nationals who flew to northern Cyprus went up sixfold last year, when calls for direct flights in the unrecognized part of the divided island gained traction after an EU flight ban in the south.
According to Turkish Cypriot daily Halkin Sesi, there were 29,530 Russian nationals who flew to Ercan airport in north Nicosia last year, a more than 500 per cent increase compared to 2021 when just 4822 had landed. The same report said Ukrainians flying to north Nicosia in 2022 tripled to 7740, compared to 2702 the previous year.
Alternative routes have also emerged through Turkey where a flight between a Black Sea coastal town and Ercan was inaugurated last month
The report came at a time after Russians living on the island called for direct international flights to north Nicosia, a task seen as politically unworkable due to the division of the island that remains ethnically divided for over half a century.
The Greek Cypriot south, which is internationally recognized as Republic of Cyprus, has banned flights from Russia, eliminating an easy option for many Russians who flew to the island’s south and drove north.
Alternative routes have also emerged through Turkey where a flight between a Black Sea coastal town and Ercan was inaugurated last month.
Nicosia also recently imposed stricter rules for Russian travelers, such as processing holdups and a litmus test to filter out supporters of their president Vladimir Putin, who ordered troops into Ukraine in late February.
But despite losing its huge Russian market due to western sanctions against Moscow, Greek Cypriot tourism officials say they have been trying to attract new visitors from EU countries, including Poland and Hungary.
Visits from south to north though checkpoints also increased in 2022 for Russians who more than tripled compared to 2021, while Ukrainians almost quadrupled in visitation numbers compared to the previous year.