ECONOMY

Cyprus tourism receipts down 3.2 percent in first seven months

NICOSIA (AFP) – Income from Cyprus’s key tourism sector was down 3.2 percent for the first seven months of the year with the rate of increase in arrivals also slowing, according to official statistics published yesterday. In July alone, revenue slumped by 11.4 percent, compared to the same month last year, as arrivals suffered a 3.8 percent decline. The first seven months saw receipts down to 505.2 million Cyprus pounds ($1.1 billion) from 521.7 million Cyprus pounds ($1.4 billion) in the same period of last year. Arrivals were still up, despite the July decline, reaching 1.26 million against 1.21 million in the same period of 2003, a rise of 4.7 percent. But the decreased earnings did nothing to dispel the authorities’ concern that the island needs to do more to develop the golf, sailing and agro-tourism facilities that attract bigger-spending tourists. The sector is the biggest single contributor to the island’s gross domestic product, contributing around 20 percent. It is viewed as a main indicator of the health of the island’s economy, which is going through a rough patch. The government is looking to rein in the fiscal deficit, currently double the Maastricht criteria of 3 percent of GDP, as it targets eurozone membership in 2007. Authorities had been banking on an improved tourism season to help plug the deficit and reach their short-term target of limiting the deficit to around 5 percent this year.