Though Cyprus has officially re-opened to the UK tourism market, tour operators claim that the majority of visitors from the country are Cyprus expats, with UK nationals so far appearing reluctant to jump through the hurdles Cyprus has laid out for category B countries.
According to the president of the UK’s association of independent tour operators and owner of the Sunvil travel agency, Noel Josephides, UK tourists are finding the process needed to travel to Cyprus “complicated.”
Cyprus’ move to bump the UK up to category B, that requires travellers to present proof of a negative coronavirus test upon arrival but which does not require arrivals to self-isolate, was expected to see an influx of UK tourists to the island, but tour operators say even with the self-isolation requirement scrapped, the need to get tested and the paperwork involved in travelling to Cyprus are still deterring factors.
“We have bookings that are being cancelled and practically no new ones for this summer,” Josephides said. “For Britons with a family and children, the tests and forms they need to fill in are a nightmare.”
According to the Cyprus News Agency, owner of Planet Holidays travel agency Harris Kyrillou said he also had zero new bookings for Cyprus in August.
Kyrillou said Cyprus has opened to UK visitors “only in theory”.
“With the measures the Republic of Cyprus has taken there is no demand. For many, the requirement to fill in forms is in itself an inhibitor, and even more so if they must also go through the trouble of getting tested for coronavirus,” he added.
Josephides said that Cyprus national authorities are planning on accepting certificates of a negative coronavirus test conducted by the NHS, which are free for UK nationals, but stressed that the NHS cannot guarantee when it will process samples – visitors need to present tests conducted within 72 hours from boarding – and people also typically need to have developed symptoms in order to get tested through the NHS.
Private UK labs currently charge 150-250 pounds, Kyrillou said.
Tour operators highlighted that this summer should be considered a lost cause, as major players such as Jet2 and TUI won’t be conducting flights from the UK to Cyprus until at least mid-August.
“I’m afraid that Cyprus needs to realize that it needs to find a balance between the protection of health and the protection of the economy. For us, it’s a very difficult year,” Josephides said.