The coronavirus pandemic caused a 50 percent drop in tourist arrivals in Cyprus in 2021 compared to 2019, the last year before the onset of COVID-19, Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said on Thursday.
The drop dealt a serious blow to the economy of the eastern Mediterranean island, as the tourism and travel sector contributed 22.7 percent to its gross domestic product (GDP), which totaled 21.1 billion euros (23.9 billion U.S. dollars) in 2019.
In 2019, tourist arrivals reached almost four million, contributing about 2.7 billion euros to the economy.
Perdios said that tourism’s contribution to the economy this year was estimated at between 55 percent and 60 percent of tourism income in 2019.
“Given the pandemic circumstances, income from tourism this year was satisfactory,” Perdios said.
He said that the current outlook for the tourism sector in 2022 was satisfactory.
“However, the onset of the highly infectious Omicron mutation of COVID-19 has raised several questions, which cannot be answered right now,” Perdios added.
Cypriot health authorities have embarked on an all-out effort to delay as long as possible the spread of the Omicron variant following the identification of the first five cases earlier this month in a secondary school.
All 500 pupils of the school have been tested, with no more cases detected.
However, the authorities are concerned over the expected arrival of several hundred university students from abroad, mostly from the United Kingdom (UK), for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Cyprus demands a SafePass and a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test for coronavirus from all travelers, which must be obtained before embarkation, and has additionally made a second test mandatory three days after arrival.
The authorities are also gearing up their vaccination program, targeting unvaccinated people and children between five and 12 years of age.
To date, over 81 percent of the country’s adult population have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.