NICOSIA — Cyprus tourist arrivals plunged 10.9 percent in 2009, the government’s statistics office reported on Wednesday, bringing more bad news to the recession-hit economy.
The recession in Europe is now taking its toll on the Mediterranean holiday island whose tourism-reliant economy is expected to contract by 0.5 percent in 2009 and grow by the same amount this year.
Between January and December, 2.14 million tourist arrivals were recorded, compared with 2.40 million in the same period a year earlier.
In December, arrivals were 66,201 against 72,102 in December 2008 — a sizeable year-on-year decline of 8.2 percent.
Tourism contributes around 12 percent of the island’s GDP and the majority of visitors come from European countries badly hit by the global recession.
There was a 10.3 percent decline in arrivals from Britain, the island’s largest source of holidaymakers, and a lower 7.8 percent dip from Germany.
However, the number of Greek tourists rose by 3.2 percent to reach 11,381.
The figures are slightly worse than the government’s projected 10 percent fall in arrivals due to the global financial crisis.
To help ease the crisis, Cypriots have been urged to holiday at home with subsidised hotel stays for lower income groups.
Total tourism receipts for 2008 dropped 3.5 percent to 1.79 billion euros (2.5 billion dollars) from 1.85 billion euros (2.6 billion dollars) in 2007. With the fall in arrivals, receipts for 2009 are expected to be much lower.
Bumper tourism revenues helped Cyprus achieve GDP growth of 4.4 percent in 2007 and 3.7 percent in 2008.
Cyprus’s economy has been shrinking since the last quarter of 2008 after decades of continuous robust growth.
The struggling tourism sector has sparked fears of a rise in unemployment which could reach an unprecedented 7 percent or more.