Sun, 02 Oct 2022

NICOSIA, Cyprus: Due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and a subsequent European Union ban on Russian flights, the estimated 800,000 Russian and Ukrainian holiday makers that travel to Cyprus each year has dropped to nearly zero.

This is in comparison with the record-setting year of 2019, when Russians and Ukrainians made up some 20 percent of all tourists visiting the island, located in the Mediterranean Sea south of Turkey.

Archimandrite Agathonikos, abbot at the Kykkos Monastery on the northeastern ridgeline of Cyprus' Troodos mountain range, said, "We have had many worshippers from these two countries fighting today. I wish and pray to our Virgin that these two peoples who fight today are shown the way to peace, the faithful in both countries should pray for that," as reported by the Associated Press.

The tomb of St. Lazarus in Larnaca and the monastery of Stavrovouni, that are said to house a large piece of the Holy Cross, are important Cyprus stops for Russians and Ukrainians on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Agathonikos added.

After the tourism slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the absence of visitors from the two nations has further hit the Cypriot tourism sector, which accounts for more than 10 percent of the nation's economy. Other nations that rely on Russian and Ukrainian visitors, including Turkey, Cuba and Egypt, are also preparing for losses.

Savvas Perdios, Deputy Minister for Tourism, said the losses from the lack of Russian and Ukrainian visitors will total about $645 million this year.

Haris Loizides, board president of the Cyprus Hotel Association said many businesses, especially local travel agencies that work with big tour operators specializing in the Russian market, are feeling the effects, including hotels on Cyprus' eastern coastline that cater to Russian visitors.

Vassos Xidias, proprietor of a seafood tavern bearing his name overlooking the small Ayia Napa harbor, said his business has dropped by as much as 50 percent this year because of losing the Russian market.

However, this summer more tourists are expected from European markets, including Scandinavian countries, France and Germany, who spend more per day on average than their Russian counterparts.

"A Russian person will be leaving in Cyprus around 60 euros per person per day, whereas other nationalities, around 90 euros," Perdios noted, as quoted by the Associated Press.

While there were no direct flights from France to Cyprus two years ago, there are now 20 weekly flights. Weekly flights from Germany and Scandinavian countries have also increased to 50 and 30, respectively, this year.

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