The tourism minister is managing expectations for the Republic of Cyprus after tour operators made clear they would send British tourists to countries where PCR tests were not required.
Following pressure from local hotel owners, who have offered to split the cost 50-50 with the state in offering free PCR tests to lure British tourists, Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios pointed out it was not a matter of cost but rather tour operators were reluctant to book holidays where virus tests were required.
Perdios, who spoke on state radio, said tour operators reject any notion that tourists would need to take a PCR test to travel to the island, even if tests were to be done at a reduced cost or as part of a holiday package.
The tourism minister explained that tour-operated travel was hard to come by from countries with elevated risk for the coronavirus, including Britain, as passemgers from the UK are currently expected to be self-isolated upon arrival. Starting tentatively August 1, only a PCR negative test would be needed for British tourists.
'The problem is that the countries we have been working with for organized travel are not available and we will have to turn our focus to individual travel'
Greece said it would start allowing British tourists coming into the country without a test requirement and only random airport tests starting on July 15, a date Perdios had previously described as “very reasonable” for British tourists to start arriving in Cyprus without restrictions.
But Perdios later said a change of plan was necessary following concerns due to partial lockdown measures in Britain, a country currently in category C which requires all arrivals to be in self-isolation for 14 days.
The much anticipated August upgrade for the United Kingdom to category B, which would still require a PCR test ahead of travel, could only take place if the country keeps a firm grip on containing the virus.
But only in low-risk category A could British tourists travel to the island without any conditions or restrictions, something which was not possible based on epidemiological data.
Perdios painted a bleak picture for the tourism industry this summer, but clarified that individual travel was going better as well as organized travel from category A countries, such as Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. The minister said there were 2000 Germans and 2000 Swiss who came to the country in the first week of July.
“The problem is that the countries we have been working with for organized travel are not available and we will have to turn our focus to individual travel,” Perdios said.
Expectations for tourists from Israel and Russia were set high early on but hope quickly faded away due to restrictive conditions associated with the pandemic.
Perdios admitted that the task at hand was a big challenge, saying this year tourists are not looking to discover something new.
“We are talking about going after specific markets that are not ready for Cypriot tourism,” he said, adding “this would call for a complete change in our business model, and it’s difficult.”