[Cyprus Mail]

Cyprus hit its highest ever number of arrivals for the month of January, Deputy Minister for Tourism Savvas Perdios said on Monday.

Speaking on CyBC radio, Perdios said that the close to 90,000 recorded visitors this year represents a 10 per cent increase on January 2019 (the year with the highest number of January arrivals to date), and a six per cent rise over January 2020.

This success is due to hard work carried out by the ministry in the past several years as well as increased airline connectivity, the deputy minister said.

Part of the department’s work was a concerted marketing effort to rebrand the island as a year-round destination, and highlighting rural and mountainous areas, thus moving away from the limits of a “sun-and-sea” getaway image, Perdios said.

Despite the loss of the Russian market, Cyprus has very successfully and rapidly swiveled to attracting visitors from the EU and is currently poised to tap another major market, that of the Gulf states, Perdios said.

The sector no longer needs to rely on the “magic button” formula of Russian and UK arrivals and packaged tourism, the deputy minister added, and attracting visitors from the EU has proven to be a safer long-term strategy, as evidenced by the common vaccination policy during the pandemic, and due to shared currency.

UK visitors still make up 30 to 35 per cent of the market, Perdios noted, a not-insignificant number, however, he did not see prospects for increasing this percentage, which he believes to be that market’s limit.

Instead, efforts are underway to tap into tourism from the Gulf states, starting with Saudi Arabia. This is a market of 40 million, Perdios said, mainly drawn to Famagusta and Limassol. Visitors from Saudi are largely young under 40s and the journey is a convenient two-and-a-half to three-hour flight.

Perdios noted that another trend is that due to a combination of the collapse of Thomas Cook, the pandemic, and the war in Ukraine over half of visitors now make their own travel arrangements, rather than purchase a package holiday.

The outgoing deputy minister said he felt confident the tourism sector was being left in a very sound state to his successor, and stated optimistically that the announcement of even more new routes in March, by Cyprus Airways and Wizz Air, boded very well for the future.