By Evie Andreou and Bejay Browne
With the exclusion by the EU of Russia, Lebanon and Israel from the list of safe countries for travel, the month of July will also be a washout for tourism, Deputy Minister Savvas Perdios said on Thursday.
The minister was in Paphos where he had a meeting with Mayor Phedonas Phedonos, who also took a swipe at hoteliers over complaints that their so-called special offers were non-existent.
Peridos said that July was now a “lost month” in terms of this year’s targets with an expectation of 25 per cent of last year’s tourist arrivals but he was still hopeful for August.
The minister’s comment came a day ahead of a meeting between President Nicos Anastasiades and his scientific team to discuss the situation with flights. There was an expectation hat the UK, which is in category C countries and deemed unsafe, would be moved to category B, safer but requiring stringent conditions for entry in order to kickstart tourism.
Perdios said that although at some stage in June there appeared to be positive developments from Germany and Israel, this was no longer the case.
“Unfortunately,” he said, Israel is out of the game, at least until the end of July, and the demand from Germany was not as expected mainly due to the traveller’s psychology, which has nothing to do with Cyprus. “Many countries face similar problems,” he said.
Perdios said that added to this was the EU ‘safe list’ of countries from which the bloc is allowing non-essential travel from July 1.
The US, Russia, Brazil and Turkey are among countries whose containment of the virus was considered worse than the EU average and they were not added to the list, at least for now. The EU will carry out fortnightly reviews.
The minister said the list excluded important countries for Cyprus, such as Israel, Lebanon, Russia and Ukraine. In addition, the fact that the UK has not yet been placed in the A or B categories by the government was creating a series of difficulties for tourism in Cyprus in July.
As regards August, Perdios said the efforts of his ministry continue both in terms of promotion and contacts from abroad with travel organisers.
He also stressed the need for timely information by epidemiology experts on their intentions or predictions on the virus outlook so that they can continue informing tour operators in advance regardless of the date when Cyprus will be able to accept major tourist markets, such as Russia or Britain.
“We cannot just inform an operator today that they can start bringing in tourists tomorrow morning,” he said. They would need two to three weeks of planning. “Many travel organisers and airlines refuse to continue their schedules for Cyprus even in August and September because they do not know in advance how things will be.”
He added, however, that his ministry “fully respects the work of the epidemiology unit” and will follow their instructions to the letter.
During his meeting with the mayor, Perdios said he was briefed about the bad financial situation of the municipality due to the pandemic and the plunge in tourist arrivals.
He expressed his satisfaction on the rise of domestic tourism on weekends and that he was optimistic that the sector would benefit from local tourism during the remaining summer months.
Perdios also referred to the campaign his ministry launched in cooperation with the travel agents’ association to encourage domestic tourism.
Phedonos agreed it was a very difficult tourist season. “Although in terms of organisation, Paphos is in a better condition in terms of beaches, sidewalks and cleanliness, the pandemic created the well-known situation as regards the tourism industry,” he said.
He also referred to complaints he received about the “alleged discounts” hoteliers say they offer “which are between minimal and non-existent.” Phedonos said this kind of mindset by the hoteliers would not attract domestic tourism at this difficult time, when many people saw their incomes plunge.
Peridos encouraged consumers to contact hotels directly, in order to ensure better prices, as he said if the reservation is made through third parties there are additional charges.
The mayor, during their meeting highlighted the readiness of Paphos to act as a predominant tourist destination though he acknowledged that the indications for the current month were not encouraging. The municipality would have a significant loss of revenue from the consequences of the pandemic, Phedonos said.
“We asked for the support of the local authorities and the state so as not to suspend projects, but also to start new ones,” he said. This request for support includes the major project of creating wave breakers in the coastal waters from Paphos to Geroskipou, with an estimated cost of around €7-€8 million. Any decisions connected to the tourism industry should be decided collectively in order to have a uniform policy, he added.
After the meeting at the town hall, the mayor accompanied the deputy minister to Sodap beach and explained the upgraded services, include with the construction of the new cafe/ restaurant of the area, before heading off to visit Venus beach