NICOSIA — Revenue from Cyprus’s key tourism sector plunged 17.1 percent in April when the eruption of the Icelandic volcano severely disrupted flights across Europe, official figures showed on Thursday.
Last month at least 20,000 holidaymakers failed to make it to the eastern Mediterranean island, even though both of its international airports remained open. Total arrivals in Cyprus in April were down 23 percent.
More than 350 flights between Cyprus and Britain and northern Europe — the country’s major tourism markets — were cancelled during the mid-April volcanic ash cloud alert.
In April, tourism revenue dipped to 89 million euros, down from 107.4 million in the same month of 2009. Tourism income has been in steady decline since December 2008.
Income from tourism, which accounts for nearly 12 percent of gross domestic product, dropped to an estimated 1.49 billion euros for the whole of last year, down from 1.79 billion euros in 2008 and 1.85 billion euros in 2007.
For the four months ending in April income fell 6.1 percent to 218.2 million euros from 232.3 million euros during the same period in 2009.
The average daily amount spent by tourists in April was 62.7 euros and the average stay was 10.2 days.
Swiss were the biggest spenders at 105.8 euros a day, while the Greeks were the most frugal, spending just 50.7 euros a day on average.
Most tourists to Cyprus come from fellow recession-affected EU countries, especially Britain, Greece and Germany.
Bumper spending by holidaymakers helped the island achieve GDP growth of 4.4 percent in 2007, easing to 3.7 percent in 2008.
On the back of poor tourism receipts, the economy retracted by 1.7 percent in 2009, its worst performance since 1974.
The finance ministry expects the economy to grow by 0.5 percent in 2010 but the Cyprus central bank has warned the downturn could continue until 2011.
Cyprus is currently trying to reduce a fiscal deficit that ballooned to 6.1 percent of GDP in 2009 — double the EU’s permitted ceiling of three percent.