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Cyprus tourist arrivals dip in bailout year

Tourist arrivals in Cyprus dipped last year when an EU bailout rescued its banking system from collapse although revenues were up, official figures for 2013 showed Monday.

The number of tourists visiting the holiday island declined by 2.4 percent, reaching 2.40 million from 2.46 million in 2012.

In return for 10 billion euros ($13.5 billion) in aid from international lenders, the island in March agreed to wind down its second largest bank, Laiki, and impose losses on depositors in under-capitalised largest lender, Bank of Cyprus.

All banks were shut down for two weeks and Cyprus became the only eurozone member to enforce capital controls, which remain in place.

Tourism officials said Monday the 2013 results were positive considering the unprecedented "haircut" on bank deposits and predicted an improvement in 2014.

"Despite a slight decrease recorded in 2013, it is considered a very satisfactory year after the decisions in March when arrivals fell 70 percent in some cases," Cyprus Tourism Organisation chief Marios Hannides said.

Hannides stressed that tourism revenues had increased by more than nine percent "in one of the worst years for our economy."

Improved revenues are fanning hopes that the key sector, which accounts for around 12 percent of Cyprus’s GDP, can pull the economy out of recession in the near future.

The largest annual fall in tourist arrivals was a 31.5 percent plunge from Germany, followed by a 21.1 percent dip from Greece and a 7.1 percent drop from Britain, the island’s biggest market.

Only a sharp 28.3 percent spike in high-spending Russians in 2013 prevented a steeper drop in visitors, with more than 600,000 arrivals putting Russia in second place behind Britain.

Revenues of 1.95 billion euros in the first 10 months of 2013 surpassed total tourism income for the previous year. The full-year tourism income for 2013 is to be announced on Friday.

In December, the number of arrivals was up on 2012 for the third straight month.

[AFP]

ekathimerini.com , Monday Jan 20, 2014 (16:55)  
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