By Christos Meliopoulos – Nicosia
The wider economic consequences of the botched bailout of Cyprus and the vindictive blow to the island’s banks are reflected in the latest figures regarding incoming tourism.
In comparison to the same point in time last year arrivals are down by 6.6%, with visitors for Germany and the United Kingdom, two crucial pools of tourists for any European country, staying away. The Russian factor is the one counterbalancing things, as arrivals have increased by 20% since August 2012.
As Cyprus Tourism Organisation chairman Alekos Orountiotis pointed out, the situation changed significantly following the Eurogroup decision of last March that imposed severe austerity measures. Before that, the omens seemed positive for Cypriot tourism, but things went off track due to the bad publicity, the uncertainty and the concerns caused by the abrupt overhaul of the country’s financial system.
In terms of the German market, the reduction of the number of arrivals has exceeded 30%. German tourists have shown in the past that they avoid hotspots of political or financial turmoil, but the fact that there are so few direct flights between the two countries certainly does not do Cyprus any favours. All in all, the German market should be considered a lost cause this year.
The traditional stronghold of Britain as a tourist market for Cyprus has also been undermined this year, with about 9% fewer arrivals. Having identified the signs early on, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation has started talking to the British tourism industry professionals with the aim of alleviating fears and offering what the UK operators want. Tourism experts believe that the picture from the UK will probably be a bit better even by the end of the year, providing a good starting base for a complete recovery in 2014.
The Russian market is a telling example of what good cooperation can achieve. Despite a deceleration in arrivals in comparison to previous years, there is still a 20% increase in Russian tourists in 2013. Where one would think that the Russians might be the ones primarily driven away by recent developments in the banking sector, the link between the two peoples is proving too resilient. The way tourism from Russia to Cyprus is conducted, via a variety of tour operators, plus the well established Russian business presence in the island, which has not been shattered in spite of the Cassandras, provide a healthy module upon which the tourism industry can rely in order to spring back to growth.
Mr Orountiotis was quick to stress that the current levels of arrivals decrease are manageable. Most tourism analysts agree that 2014 can only be better.