By Andreas Izamis
While 2017 is expected to be a record year for tourist arrivals in Cyprus, the flow of Cypriots abroad in the first six months shows a 17.6% increase over the corresponding period last year.
“The feeling that the economic situation in the country is getting better is largely responsible for the increase in travel amongst Cypriots,” said Dinos Kakkouras, President of the Cyprus Travel Agents Association.
An increase in travel was recorded for each month this year save May, where departures by Cypriots fell by 0.1% compared to 2016.
In total, 525,209 Cypriots travelled abroad during the first six months of 2017 of which 327,568 (62.37%) were holiday makers.
“Cypriots do not consider a vacation as a luxury, but a necessity,” said Kakkouras.
“Even lower-income families will go on a holiday; they will adjust their days and destination in order to make it possible,” he explained.
Although showing a slight decrease in May and June compared to 2016, Greece remains a popular holiday destination among Cypriots.
With a 16.5% increase over the corresponding 2016 period, 154,549 Cypriot holidaymakers travelled to the Greek mainland and the Greek islands in the first six months of 2017.
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According to Kakkouras, Greece has proved popular among Cypriots primarily due to accessibility, and cost.
“It’s a matter of accessibility more than anything; with so many airlines now making daily flights to Greece and the Greek islands, it’s a lot easier for Cypriots to get away,” said Kakkouras, noting that the common language shared by the two countries doesn’t play much of a role.
The number of direct flights to a number of Greek islands such as Astypalea, Chios, Corfu, Crete, Ikaria, Kalymnos, Kos, to name but a few, has certainly helped.
Kalamata in the Peloponnese is a new destination, while direct flights to Corfu and Zakynthos have been reintroduced.
The fact that Blue Air and Aegean have established their base in Cyprus has meant a larger network and more opportunities for Cypriot travellers, as does the establishment of new Cypriot airlines like TUS, Cobalt and Cyprus Airways.
While traditional destinations such as Israel and Lebanon have fallen from favour, particularly due to the ongoing tensions in the area, new European destinations such as Madrid have drawn much interest, as have Italy, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania.
The UK, with 83,612 visitors from Cyprus in the first six months, however, remains the most popular European destination for Cypriots after Greece.
With the exception of the UK and Greece, Cypriots tend to travel to European destinations in organised groups, as do the few who venture on long-haul destinations such as the Americas, Far East and Australasia.
Cypriots have also shown an increased keen interest in cruises and, while only the Salamis Filoxenia and Thomson Spirit organise cruises from Limassol port, Cypriots are known to travel to other Mediterranean destinations in order to join cruises around the region.