TOURISM ARRIVALS fell 5.3 per cent in the first eight months of 2013, compared to the same period last year, following the harsh bailout of Cyprus this March, said head of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation Alecos Oroundiotis yesterday.
In total, 1.63 million tourists visited the island from January to August, compared to 1.72 million last year.
The CTO originally predicted an increase in tourist arrivals for 2013 compared to 2012, but the Eurogroup’s bailout of Cyprus which included a bail-in of uninsured depositors, many Russian, forced initial estimates to be revised downwards.
Oroundiotis said the CTO expects that by the end of the year, tourism arrivals will show a decrease of 4.0 per cent for the entire year, which he described as a manageable result.
The traditional tourist markets for Cyprus saw a downward trend in arrivals from Britain and Germany, 13 and 36 per cent respectively. However, tourists arriving from Russia, the Ukraine and Israel were up by 25 per cent, 85 per cent and 22 per cent respectively.
The CTO chief estimated that Russian tourists visiting Cyprus in 2013 would reach close to 600,000.
The Russian market has become the second largest market for Cyprus, after the UK which provides roughly 50 per cent of tourist arrivals, and counts for around 900,000 arrivals.
Oroundiotis highlighted the need for a bilateral agreement between Russia and Cyprus to be reviewed and improved so that the tourist period can be extended to last one or two months longer.
So far, the season is controlled by a bilateral agreement and is geared towards protecting Russian state carriers. Private airlines are keen, however, to increase flights to Cyprus from Russia during the winter period too.
Regarding Ukraine, the CTO chief said so far a total of 35,000 tourists have come to Cyprus this year, though the aim is for arrivals to reach 100,000 in the next two years.
Kazakhstan is also a market with “great potential”, said Oroundiotis, noting that if the visa issue could be sorted out, the Kazakh market is ready to send 10,000 tourists to the island in 2014, starting from this December.
There is currently no Cypriot embassy or consulate in Kazakhstan, making obtaining a visa near impossible. The CTO would like to see the same electronic visa system used for Russia and Ukraine applied to Kazakhstan.
On the massive Chinese market, arrivals are at the lowly 2,500 a year figure. Oroundiotis said the CTO was awaiting an official invite from the Chinese Tourism Organisation to go to Beijing and sign a cooperation agreement.
“This will be the key to officially opening up the Chinese market,” he said.
Oroundiotis highlighted that the CTO met with Thomas Cook and TUI in Britain, and agreed on three-year plans, expected to be finalised by the beginning of November at the World Travel Market.
The agreement with Thomas Cook includes undertaking efforts to cap the fall in tourist arrivals and at a later stage increasing them. The agreement with TUI provides for a return to higher tourist arrivals and the launch of a winter programme.
The semi-government organisation also held contacts with British Airways, Ryanair, Monarch, Easyjet and Jet2 in an effort to increase tourist arrivals next summer.
Oroundiotis said, following contacts in Scandinavian countries, an agreement was made to expand air routes offered by the Norwegian airline to Cyprus for the entire year from Oslo and Stockholm with the prospect of also including Helsinki and Copenhagen.
The CTO also met with a number of airlines such as Ryanair, which has committed to a 16 destination programme, Wizz Air which has agreed to a three-year programme including 10 destinations (including Ukraine, Hungary and Poland) and airBaltic which has agreed to extend its offered flights from Latvia during the winter. At the same time, flyNiki has agreed to 13 flights from Vienna to Cyprus.
Oroundiotis said tourism prospects for 2014 and in general the next three years were good. He estimated that tourism would initially increase by 7.0 per cent next year compared to 2013, and rise even further the following years.
SOURCE: Cyprus Mail