NICOSIA — Cyprus tourist arrivals plunged 10.9 percent during the first eight months of 2009, official figures showed on Thursday, signalling little respite for the recession-hit economy.
The recession in Europe is now being felt in the Mediterranean holiday island’s tourism market with the rate of decline in arrivals accelerating in August — the peak month for holidaymakers.
Between January and August, 1.47 million tourist arrivals were recorded, compared with 1.66 million over the same period last year.
In August alone, arrivals were 291,583 as against 328,100 in August 2008 — a sizeable year-on-year decline of 11.1 percent.
There was a hefty 31.9 percent decline in arrivals from Russia, followed by Britain, the island’s largest holiday market, with a decrease of 11.5 percent and a lower 5.3 percent dip from Sweden.
However, there was a 15.8 percent increase in tourists from Norway and a 2.3 percent improvement in the number of Germans visiting.
The government estimates that arrivals will be down 10 percent for 2009 as a whole. To help ease the crisis, Cypriots were urged to holiday at home with subsidised hotel stays for lower income groups.
Almost six percent fewer Cypriots travelled abroad in July.
Most tourists to Cyprus come from recession-hit European Union countries.
Total tourism receipts for 2008 dropped 3.5 percent to 1.79 billion euros (2.5 billion dollars) from 1.85 billion euros (2.6 billion dollars) in 2007.
Tourism contributes around 12 percent of the island’s GDP.
Bumper tourism revenues helped the island achieve GDP growth of 4.4 percent in 2007 and 3.7 percent in 2008, and hotel bookings are said to be around 20 percent down this summer.
Cyprus’s economy shrank 0.4 percent in the second quarter to June after a 0.6 percent drop in the first three months of 2009, the state statistics department confirmed on Monday.
Year-on-year, GDP in the first six months shrank 1.1 percent compared to 2008.
Despite the gloomy figures, the finance ministry has not yet revised its GDP growth forecast of one percent for this year.
In 2008, tourist arrivals fell 0.5 percent to 2.40 million, down from 2.41 million a year earlier. It was only the fourth time year-on-year tourism numbers had dropped since 1996.