NICOSIA — Cyprus tourist arrivals plunged 10.7 percent in the first nine months of 2009, the government statistical office reported on Friday, bringing more bad news to the recession-hit economy.
The recession in Europe is now biting hard on the Mediterranean holiday island with the tourism-reliant economy expected to contract by 0.5 percent this year.
Between January and September, 1.75 million tourist arrivals were recorded, compared with 1.96 million in the year-earlier period.
In September alone, arrivals were 276,178 as against 305,348 in September 2008 — a sizeable year-on-year decline of 9.6 percent.
There was a hefty 20.1 percent decline in arrivals from Russia, but a lower 7.2 percent dip from Britain, the island’s largest source of holidaymakers.
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.
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 Cyprus achieve GDP growth of 4.4 percent in 2007 and 3.7 percent in 2008.
Cyprus’s economy shrank 0.4 percent in the second quarter after a 0.6 percent drop in the first three months of 2009.
Year-on-year, GDP in the first six months shrank 1.1 percent compared to 2008.
The finance ministry predicts that GDP growth with contract 0.5 percent this year then grow by the same figure in 2010.