Cyprus sets stage for tourism recovery as airports reopen
Nicosia, (AFP/APP):Cyprus opens back up for international tourism on Tuesday, with airports welcoming visitors after an almost three-month shutdown, and a bold plan to cover health care costs for visitors.
But with arrivals expected to be down by 70 percent this year due to the chaos brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, it's a leap of faith for the small Mediterranean holiday island.
"Nobody here is expecting to make any money this year", Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios told AFP.
The divided island's tourism sector normally accounts for around 15 percent of GDP but has dried up in past months amid global measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Cyprus saw a record 3.97 million arrivals in 2019, with more than half its market made up of British and Russian visitors.
But even if the island's airports in Larnaca and Paphos will open up to arrivals on Tuesday with the first flight due to arrive from Athens around midday (0900GMT), neither Britain or Russia are among the 19 countries allowed to land there.
The list of permitted countries, which also include Bulgaria, Germany and Malta, have been chosen based on epidemiological data and split into two categories.
Initially all travellers will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test undertaken within 72 hours of travel, but from June 20, only those arriving from six countries in the second category, such as Poland and Romania, will need to do so.
The government says the lists will be revised weekly and more countries can be added.
Cyprus will also cover accommodation, dining and medical care for any tourists who fall ill with the COVID-19 illness during their stay, as well as accommodation and meals for their families and close contacts.
"What we offer and what we sell is not the sun and the sea, it's hospitality, and this is an extension of our hospitality," Perdios said.
The government has designated a 100-bed COVID-19 hospital for tourists that Perdios said would be located in the Larnaca region, while 112 ICU units have been allocated for visitors.
Perdios said several four-star hotels would provide 500 quarantine rooms for close contacts of those who fall ill.