Addressing the 59th Annual General Assembly of the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents (ACTA), the minister said although initial data had suggested 2013 would be a good year, the Eurogroup’s March decision on a Cyprus bailout made it “a difficult year for tourism”.
During the two Eurogroup meetings in March that decided on a ‘bail-in’ of large depositors in the Bank of Cyprus and Laiki Bank in exchange for the €10 billion international bailout, banks were closed for almost two weeks, foreign travel agencies saw deposits parked in those banks raided while – in a first for the eurozone – capital controls were imposed in Cyprus.
Lakkotrypis argued that the timely and decisive intervention of the government has minimised the damage caused by the Eurogroup’s decision ensuring tourism reservations returned to normal.
Referring to the developments in Syria, the minister noted that, in cooperation with the foreign ministry and the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), developments are monitored and every necessary action is taken to convey the message that Cyprus remains a safe tourist destination.
As part of efforts to assist travel agencies during the ongoing economic crisis, Lakkotrypis said he has signed a draft bill providing for a decrease of the bank guarantee required by travel agencies to deposit, taking it down to €20,000. Lakkotrypis assured ACTA members that the government and CTO were making every effort to boost winter tourism. “The government and the CTO are committed to work hard to bring substantive results,” he said, adding that soon the government will formulate a national strategy for winter tourism.
According to the Cyprus Statistical Service, revenue from tourism reached €202.1 million in May 2013 compared to €214.3 million for the same month last year, a decrease of 5.7%. For the period January-August 2013 tourist arrivals reached 1,637,792 compared to 1,728,762 in the corresponding period of 2012, a decrease of 5.3%.