Cyprus holidays : Prices could fall as a result of country’s economic turmoil

By
Travelmail Reporter

08:08 EST, 29 March 2013


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08:08 EST, 29 March 2013

Britons could see the cost of holidays in Cyprus drop as a result of its economic difficulties.

As anxious Cypriots patiently waited in long lines to take out their money yesterday following the reopening of banks after nearly two weeks, the world waited to see how events would unfold.

Banks have been shut in Cyprus since March 16 to prevent people from draining their accounts as politicians scrambled to save the country’s stricken financial sector. ATM machines were working, but with a limit on daily withdrawals.

Konnos Beach near Protaras, Agia Napa, Cyprus

Crystal clear: Cyprus is described by its tourist board as a year-round destination

According to TravelWeekly.co.uk, industry analyst GfK said there had been a 43 per cent year-on-year drop in summer bookings to Cyprus last week.

Although Noel Josephides, managing director of Sunvil Holidays, said the company had not seen any cancellations and he doubted whether Cyprus’ troubles would affect tourism in the long term.

Speaking to TravelMail, and referring to local costs, Mr Josephides said that “Cyprus prices will come down” in the wake of the crisis, which has seen an international bailout to save the country’s financial system. He added: “If bookings don’t pick up, there’ll be a lot of discounts.”

And he told the Guardian: “Cyprus as a
destination has always been that bit more expensive, and hasn’t been
able to compete on price with Turkey, Spain or Portugal. After it joined
the euro, prices started to get ridiculous, with a coffee costing €4
(£3.40).”

People queue outside a Laiki bank branch as a man receives money from an ATM machine in Nicosia today

Orderly: People queue outside a Laiki bank branch as a man receives money from an ATM machine in Nicosia today

Mr Josephides drew a parallel with Greece, which has seen its own financial strife in recent times.

“With Greece, the difference is that there were lots of violent demonstrations. That put people off,” said Mr Josephides.

Once they had an election, he said, there was an “almighty” rush in terms of bookings.

Last year, British holidaymakers were being offered large discounts on peak summer packages as travel firms tried to tempt tourists back to the country.

Nissi Beach Resort in Agia Napa, Cyprus

Popular: Around one million British nationals visit each year

Earlier this week, the FCO and ABTA, the Travel Association, advised travellers to take some euros to Cyprus to cover their expenses.

ABTA said it was so visitors were “not reliant on one form of payment”.

Although banks are now open, the Mediterranean island has imposed daily withdrawal limits of 300 euros (£252) for individuals, fearing a run on lenders.

The limits on withdrawals and other capital controls are expected to be relaxed gradually. Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said that, according to central bank estimates, the controls would be fully lifted in a month. Some analysts say it could last longer.

As part of the country’s controls, no cheques can be cashed, although they can be deposited. Anyone leaving the country, whether Cypriot or a visitor, can only take up to 1,000 euros (£843) with them in cash.

The latest advice on the FCO’s website, updated yesterday, says: “Banks in the Republic of Cyprus have now re-opened. You can continue to use ATMs, debit and credit cards as normal.

“Limits have been imposed on withdrawals from Cypriot bank accounts, but this should not apply to withdrawals from UK or other foreign bank accounts.”

Rev Canon Derek G Smith of St Barnabus Church in Limassol said that tourists on the island are finding it surprising that they can still withdraw plenty of euros.

“A wedding couple from England were struck that they could get hundreds of pounds out of an ATM, but locals could only get 100 or 120,” he said.

He added that it was currently an “excellent time” to holiday in Cyprus: “Deals for flights and for accommodation are out there, and ATMs are working well for UK debit cards.”


Greek envoy: Israel-Greece ties remain unchanged

Greece’s relations with Israel are strong and stable and will not change with
the beginning of an Israeli-Turkish rapprochement, Greece’s new ambassador to
Israel said on Thursday.

Spiros Lambridis, Athens’s new envoy to Israel,
said that “regardless of what Israel does with Turkey, we have a strategic
relationship that is autonomous and has nothing to do with
Turkey.”

Lambridis said the Israeli-Turkish rapprochement will hopefully
take hold and lead to regional stability. “The more tranquility in the region,
the better,” he said.

Israel’s relations with Turkey’s historic rival
Greece skyrocketed following the breakdown in ties with Ankara after the 2010
Mavi Marmara incident, and included stepped-up economic, tourist, political and
military cooperation. The same was true of Israel’s relations with another
historic Turkish foe, Cyprus.

Israel and Greece are scheduled to hold
their first government-to-government meeting in a few months in Athens, a
meeting the ambassador said is a sign the countries want a continued “fruitful
bilateral relationship.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke on
Saturday with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the day after he called
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize for operational errors
that might have led to the loss of life on the Mavi Marmara.

Lambridis
said his assumption was that Netanyahu and Samaras discussed the situation with
Turkey, and that the message was that Greek-Israeli ties would continue to grow
and develop.

Meanwhile, Israel also took efforts this week to reassure
Cyprus that a closer relationship with Ankara would not come at the expense of
Jerusalem’s ties with Nicosia.

The Cyprus Mail this week quoted Israeli
Deputy Ambassador Shani Cooper as saying that the “the normalization of
relations between Turkey and Israel was an important bilateral step but it will
not affect any multilateral, trilateral or bilateral relations between Israel
and other countries. Israel will maintain its close relations with Cyprus, and
continue strengthening them as we have done the last few years.”

The
paper on Thursday quoted Cypriot Commerce Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis as saying
Netanyahu’s apology “was anticipated.”

“I assure you we are monitoring
the situation and we will secure our state’s sovereign rights,” Lakkotrypis
said, amid concern in Cyprus that closer Israeli-Turkish ties will lead to more
collaboration between those countries regarding hydrocarbons in the eastern
Mediterranean, and less Israeli-Cypriot cooperation on the
issue.

Lakkotrypis is due to visit Israel next month, followed a month
later by newly elected Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.