Financial Mirror (Cyprus)

Tourism sweats it out until mid-summer


- By Kyriacos Kiliaris

As post-lockdown Cyprus welcomes back tourists, efforts to attract holidaymak­ers may have hit a brick wall as the UK may not remove the island from quarantine regulation­s any time soon.

Cyprus allows vaccinated tourists to roam freely. Those who have tested once or twice according to the classifica­tion of their country of origin can enjoy their holiday without any further restrictio­n.

The Deputy Tourism Ministry said that testing before and upon arrival would be sufficient for monitoring foreign visitors during their visit without needing a Safe Pass.

However, tourists, especially Britons, may have difficulty getting here if Cyprus remains in the amber category; it means self-isolation upon their return and paying for a couple of PCR tests.

Cyprus tourism may not be able to avoid another nasty shock after the UK government appeared adamant on leaving Greece and Cyprus out of its safe travel list, said a UK based travel agent.

Noel Josephides of Sunvil Travel and former chairman of the associatio­n of independen­t tour operators (AITO), said the latest developmen­ts could simply mean that Cyprus will not be seeing many tourists from the UK, its largest market, this summer.

“The only hope for things to turn around is if the UK government, on the advice of its epidemiolo­gical experts, give the green light to put Cyprus in the green category next week,” said Josephides.

The UK health authoritie­s are set to reassess their safe travel list on Monday.

“If Cyprus makes the cut by then, the season could be saved. Otherwise, the next time Cyprus could make the green list will be after three weeks, on 9 June when the government is set to revise the list once more.”

He said as things stand, the majority of Britons will not even consider Cyprus for a summer getaway, as the cost of repetitive tests and having to spend 10 days in quarantine upon their return is simply not worth it.

Josephides said his agency had zero bookings for Cyprus, as people are concerned over UK requiremen­ts once they return.

He compared demand for Cyprus to Portugal, which has made it to the green list and has seen bookings take off, unlike Cyprus. TUI Airlines have some 40 flights to Portugal on Monday alone.

Portugal was one of just 12 countries and territorie­s to be added to Britain’s “green list”, allowing Britons to visit the country from 17 May without needing to quarantine, but still requiring two COVID-19 tests – one before returning to the UK and on arrival.

Travel search website Skyscanner said there was a 616% increase in bookings to Portugal last week compared to the previous one, prompting airlines to add capacity to existing routes and, in some cases, launch news ones to meet demand.

EasyJet is adding more flights to Portugal for this summer, putting an extra 20,000 seats on routes including London Gatwick to Faro and Lisbon over the May-October period.

Cypriot travel agents are also concerned over the prospect of British tourists making their way to the island before July, missing out on most of the season while other destinatio­ns get the go-ahead.

“As we are informed, several Greek islands could make the cut and be listed in the green category, increasing competitio­n,” said Charis Papacharal­ambous, Associatio­n of Cyprus Travel Agents (ACTA) spokespers­on.

Furthermor­e, as he said, some tour operators will be very hesitant to book holiday packages for Cyprus, as internatio­nal regulation­s hold operators accountabl­e for compensati­ng holidaymak­ers who miss out due to COVID-19 restrictio­ns.

“One of the UK’s largest tour operators ‘On the Beach’, has suspended all packages to all destinatio­n for until late summer, early autumn,” said Papacharal­ambous.

He said that Cyprus tourism is one step before the cliff edge, as at best, the island should expect to see Britons come to the island in August.

“On our part, we did what we could. Even though one might say we were late, however, we have pushed ahead with our vaccinatio­n program and given tourists the freedom to enjoy a holiday in the sun.

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