ECONOMY

Cyprus sees 15 pct decrease in arrivals during first quarter

NICOSIA (AFP) – The number of tourists arriving on the Mediterranean holiday island of Cyprus nosedived 15.2 percent in the first quarter of 2009, official figures showed yesterday. Arrivals in the first three months to March sank to 194,127 people from 228,962 in the same period a year earlier, indicating that 2009 could be a bad year for the vital tourism sector, which along with construction contributes a mighty 30 percent to Cyprus’s gross domestic product. In March alone, the year-on-year decline accelerated to 16.4 percent, as only 90,434 holidaymakers arrived, down from 108,164 in March 2008. The number arriving from Britain, the Mediterranean island’s biggest market, plummeted 26.9 percent, while 11.6 percent fewer people came in from Greece. By contrast, there was a 25.1 percent spike in holidaymakers from Germany, reaching 12,812 last month. Cypriots themselves are feeling the pinch, with an 8.4 percent decrease in residents traveling abroad in February. In 2008, total arrivals eased 0.5 percent to 2.40 million tourists and total tourism receipts fell 3.5 percent to 1.79 billion euros. For the upcoming summer season, hotel bookings are said to be around 25 percent less expensive. The government is officially forecasting a 10 percent decline in tourist arrivals for 2009. It has approved more than 350 million euros in stimulus measures to stave off job losses in tourism and construction.