The Deputy Ministry of Tourism expects tourist arrivals to increase following a “tragic” year for tourism in 2020, albeit numbers are not expected to remotely reach arrivals in 2019, Savvas Perdios, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, told journalists. Speaking during a videoconference, on Tuesday, he said that this year, the country is basing its hopes on traditional markets, where vaccinations proceed faster, as well as on new markets.

The countries with the most advanced vaccination programmes include Britain, Israel and Russia, which were the markets which provided 65% of 2019 arrivals in Cypurs, he noted. This, he said, means that they will get the situation easier under control and will have fewer restrictions in place when it comes to travelling to Cyprus. He also said that direct flights are expected to start from France and the Scandinavian countries, and there will be no dependency on tour operators any more.

The Deputy Minister said it was positive that the categorisation of countries is changing from March 1st onwards, under the precondition of presenting a COVID-19 test, which in turn is expected to result in the opening of 56 markets for Cyprus tourism.

He noted, however, that the first semester of 2021 is expected to be difficult for tourism and the Deputy Ministry is keeping expectations low, due to the ongoing situation with the pandemic in Europe and throughout the world.

Perdios clarified that vaccinations for COVID-19 are not a precondition for people to arrive in Cyprus and that testing people on arrival is more important.

Replying to a question, the Deputy Minister said that in no case will they offer incentives for inoculated people to come to Cyprus and that anyone who meets the criteria for entry will be free to come.

He also said that he is not in favour of promoting Cyprus tourism on the basis of epidemiological data and vaccinations.

“None of this is a tourist product and I think it is wrong for the country, or any country, to advertise its vaccination rates or the handling of the epidemiological situation” he added.

Although it is not safe to make predictions, tourist flows are expected to increase in comparison to last year, which as the Minister said, was a tragic year for tourism.

However, Perdios went on to say that 2020 was not a “tragic year” for the Deputy Ministry which implemented 95% of its action plan. The National Strategy on Tourism 2030 and actions for 2020 were implemented by 95%, he went on and said that a small number of activities were transferred to 2022 and beyond.

The Deputy Ministry also proceeded with carrying out a series of studies and tenders to promote Cyprus tourism, he added.

He also referred to the COVID-19 crisis group, launched by the Deputy Ministry to manage the arrivals of Cypriots and other citizens residing in Cyprus in quarantine hotels and the intensive coordination with competent public and private entities to draft protocols guiding the operation of airports, hotels, beaches and recreation centres.

Among others, Perdios referred to extraordinary negotiations with tour operators and airline companies, resulting in 13 new routes from 10 countries. The Deputy Minister made particular reference to Wizz Air, saying that this was something Cyprus aspired to for a long time.

A plan of incentives has also been prepared and is expected to be implemented within 2021, once Cyprus opens up as a destination.

The Deputy Ministry also proceeded to enrich the country’s tourist product, with actions involving a review of wine routes, making more archaeological sites available for events in the framework of conventions, diving, cycling and other activities.

He also referred to PGA Golf Tournament, the “largest sporting event ever held in Cyprus” noting that it attracted 105 top players with 27 different nationalities.

As for domestic tourism, Perdios said that €700,000 were spent by mid-November, while this year’s spending will reach €1.5 mln in the first phase. He also said that they intended to extend the scheme until the end of May, initially and that a relevant proposal will be tabled before the Cabinet. More than 29,000 people benefited from the plan for holidays between September and November 2020, with an estimated 63,000 overnight stays, he added.

As for 2021, Perdios said that they are busy preparing the restart of the tourism sector, in order to achieve the best possible results. Actions involve marketing and promotion activities with the launch of the “biggest digital advertising campaign ever held in Cyprus.”

Upgrading facilities, reinforcing special forms of tourism, completing the legislative process for important bills concerning recreational centres, travel agencies, theme parks or camping sites are also part of the action plan for this year, according to the Deputy Minister.

Asked whether there is a conflict of interest between his capacity as Deputy Minister and the fact that he worked previously for a large tourism company, Perdios said that recent events have proven that the person in charge of leading the Deputy Ministry is required to have specialised knowledge in the sector. “I am here only for tourism” he concluded.

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