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Koumis: Aim is to sustain 2023 performance amid challenges

The goal of the Deputy Ministry of Tourism is for tourist arrivals to remain in 2024 at the same levels as last year, said Deputy Minister Kostas Koumis, in a year marked by geopolitical instability and other unpredictable factors such as problems in the aviation sector that affect flight schedules.

He added that despite the loss of the Russian tourist market due to the ongoing war in Ukraine and the crisis in Gaza affecting Israel, another important tourist market for Cyprus, tourist arrivals in 2023 stood at 3.85 million, which he said was the third best historical performance, an annual increase of 20% and just 3.3% less than the all-time high of 2019, which showed that the gap of the loss of the Russian market was made up for.

According to the Deputy Minister, tourism revenues approached €3 billion, reflecting a 22.6% increase in nominal terms and 18.4% in real terms, while at the same time, based on the latest data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, the total contribution of tourism to Cyprus' GDP in 2023 is estimated at 12.8% from 12.2% in 2022.

With regard to nautical tourism, while 2023 started with indications for a new all-time high, Koumis said that the war in neighbouring Israel ended the upward trend, as Israel is used as a home port for cruises, closing with 322,000 visitors. Passenger numbers in 2024 will drop as Israel's loss "is huge", he added.

Regarding air connectivity, the Deputy Minister of Tourism said that 55 companies have scheduled flights this year to and from Cyprus, as many as in 2023, adding that the original estimate when preparing the 2024 budget was 450,000 additional seats, noting however that there will be a reduction.

Responding to questions about different tourism markets performance, Koumis said he expects an increase in tourist arrivals from Poland, a small increase from the Nordic countries and a significant contribution from Balkan countries, especially Romania and Serbia. As for the UK, he estimated that tourism traffic will be at the same level as last year, while for Germany he noted that he expects roughly the same levels as last year, provided that the economic challenges in the country are overcome.

€11.2 million in grant schemes

Koumis referred to the 16 grant plans implemented by the Deputy Ministry, four of which relate to the Recovery and Resilience Plan, with the total provision for 2024 amounting to €11.24 million, of which €8.1 million derive from the Recovery Plan.

The largest project in terms of expenditure is the Rural, Mountain and Remote Areas Revitalisation Plan, which is scheduled to be launched in a few weeks with a budget of €4 million, with 82 local authorities having benefited last year with an expenditure of €1.28 million.

Tourism to the Turkish occupied territories

Asked about tourists visiting the Turkish occupied territories, the Deputy Minister of Tourism said that it is a long-standing problem and a consequence of the non-solution of the Cyprus problem, adding that "it seems that year by year the problem is growing, which is due to several factors."

"In essence, there is not much we can do," he said, noting that the Deputy Ministry has been working on the issue by informing tour operators promoting tourism in the Turkish occupied territories and raising the issue in meetings with ambassadors of specific countries.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

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