Britons and Russians make up the highest percentages of tourists favouring Cyprus, with one in three overseas visitors to the island last year coming from the UK and one in four from Russia.
Of the 3,186,531 tourists who came to Cyprus last year, 1,157,978 were from the UK and 781,634 from Russia. Tourists from Greece amounted to 160,254, with Israel next at 148,739. Also making up the top five is Germany with 124,254 tourists visiting Cyprus in 2016.
Arrivals from Russia, Greece, Israel, Ukraine, Lithuania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Serbia during 2016 broke all previous records.
Last year was a particularly good one for the tourism sector with over half a million more tourist arrivals than in 2015, marking a 20% rise overall and with the April to October period becoming a record-breaking one. Arrivals in 2016 were also 18% higher than those in 2001, which is often referred to as a reference year due to the high arrivals.
Making up the overall increase are rises in individual markets. The greatest increase has been in visitors from Russia and Israel, both climbing by some 50% between 2015 and 2016.
The increase in arrivals from Israel in 2016 is even more impressive when you consider they rose by 116% compared to 2014. This is partly due to the new open skies policy and more frequent air connections.
Arrivals from Greece, meanwhile, increased by 14.8% from 2015 to 2016, arrivals from the UK by 11.2%, and arrivals from Germany by 10.5%.
The Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) believes that it can build on last year’s 170,000 arrivals from Germany, increasing them to as much as 240,000 this year.
Other increases in arrivals between 2015 and 2016 came from Slovakia (99.7%), Romania (36.5%), Ireland, (also 36.5%), and Lebanon (36.2%).
There were decreases in arrivals from Finland (-4.8%), Poland (-1.6%), Austria (-5%), Czech Republic (-0.3%), the Baltic States (0/7%), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (-11.9%), the USA (-9.5%), Canada (-14.9%), and Australia (-15.9%).
The smallest tourism markets for Cyprus are Canada, South Africa, Spain and Ireland which each brought in just 3,500 to 4,500 visitors during 2016.
Nearing the 10,000 mark, meanwhile, were Slovakia (8.970) and Czech Republic (9,744).
More than 10,000 tourists arrived from Australia (10,930), Bulgaria (11,338), Hungary (14,355), the USA (16,949), the UAE (17,016), Italy (17,905), and Finland (18.463).
Up to 30,000 tourists from the following countries visited Cyprus in 2016: Baltic nations (23,298), Romania (28,741), Belgium/Luxembourg (28,968), Holland (29,450), Denmark (29,593), and Austria (30,419).
The countries going over the 40,000 visitor mark in 2016 were Poland (42,683), France (42,576), Norway (47,037), Lebanon (50,361), Switzerland (53,319), Ukraine (62,292), and Sweden (115,019).
Comparing 2016 arrivals to those in 2014 determines decreases from Norway (-17.1%), Finland (-22.8%), Denmark (-3.1%) and Czech Republic (-6.5%) and increases from Germany (43.6%), France (46%), Romania (58.3%), Ukraine (51.6%), and Lebanon (54.1%).
The first three months of this year, meanwhile, has seen a 19.9% increase in tourist arrivals while there was a 26.9% rise in the fourth month of this year, April. April 2017 also saw the highest-ever number of tourism arrivals for the month—286,331. Previously the record was held by April 2001 and its 237,000 visitors.
Arrivals from the UK rose by 16.3% and from Russia by 21.8% that month compared to April 2016, perhaps aided by the Catholic and Orthodox Easters coinciding this year.
There was also an increase in arrivals from Germany (156.6%) and Israel (77%) compared to April 2016, although the number of visitors from Greece dropped by 2.5%.
Hoping to continue the upward trend, the Tourism Ministry, in cooperation with the CTO and other tourism sector stakeholders will continue to move ahead with a strategy expanding Cyprus’ tourism product beyond the sun and sea model it has so far been relying on.
Tourism Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said efforts included promoting facilities for special interests and activities: “To make sure that tourists on our island will be able to find something that interests them to do whatever time of year it is”.
Lakkotrypis also said efforts were underway to make Cyprus even more accessible by air “and investments in important infrastructure projects such as golf courses, the marina network, and resort casinos”.
He also revealed a long-term strategy to develop Cyprus’ tourism was also being formulated.
Tourism has for many years made up over 13% of Cyprus’ Gross National Product (GNP) even amid the crisis remaining the most promising business sector.
Cyprus has benefited from instability in neighbouring countries and recent years have seen significant investments made, mainly in the private sector, with the aim of attracting even more tourists.