KYKKOS MONASTERY, Cyprus (AP) — Archimandrite Agathonikos bows earlier than the silver-covered icon of the Virgin Mary to supply prayers for an finish to the struggle between “peoples of the same religion” in Ukraine.
Till the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a whole lot of Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox devoted visiting Cyprus would come each day to venerate the relic. Custom dictates it was original by Luke the Evangelist from beeswax and mastic and blessed by the Virgin herself as a real illustration of her picture.
With the struggle and a European Union ban on Russian flights, the estimated 800,000 Russian and Ukrainian vacationers that head to Cyprus annually for its heat, azure waters and non secular historical past stretching again to the daybreak of Christianity are virtually right down to zero. In record-setting 2019, they made up a fifth of all vacationers to the island nation within the Mediterranean Sea south of Turkey.
“We’ve had many worshippers from these two countries fighting today,” Agathonikos mentioned. “I wish and pray to our Virgin that these two peoples who fight today are shown the way to peace — the faithful in both countries should pray for that.”
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He’s the abbot of Kykkos Monastery on the northeastern ridgeline of Cyprus’ Troodos mountain vary, which has been dwelling to the icon for practically a thousand years. It, the tomb of St. Lazarus in Larnaca and the monastery of Stavrovouni that homes a big piece of the Holy Cross are necessary Cyprus stops for Russians and Ukrainians on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Agathonikos mentioned.
Their absence this yr, approaching the again of a steep drop in tourism on the pandemic’s outset, has reduce into the income of a rustic whose tourism sector accounts for greater than 10% of its financial system. Different nations that depend on Russian and Ukrainian guests like Turkey, Cuba and Egypt additionally braced for losses simply as tourism started bouncing again.
Cyprus Deputy Minister for Tourism Savvas Perdios estimates the loss from Russian and Ukrainian guests will complete about 600 million euros ($645 million) this yr, with expectations earlier than the struggle that the variety of guests can be approaching that of 2019.
Cyprus is among the shortest flights from Russia to any Mediterranean vacation vacation spot, however the EU flight ban negated that benefit.
Companies are hurting, particularly native journey businesses that work with large tour operators specializing in the Russian market. Some accommodations on Cyprus’ in style japanese shoreline that catered to Russian vacationers are feeling the sting, too, mentioned Haris Loizides, board president of the Cyprus Lodge Affiliation.
A further burden weighing on resort house owners is excessive inflation that has cranked up working prices, he mentioned.
Vassos Xidias, proprietor of a seafood tavern bearing his identify overlooking the small Ayia Napa harbor, says his enterprise has dropped by as a lot as 50% this yr due to dropping the Russian market.
“There’s an enormous downside in our work,” Xidias said. “Now, we’ll see how much this will be covered by the European market and others. It’s the gamble that we’re waiting to see over the next four months that remain” of the tourist season.
Despite the upheaval, officials say that thanks to foresight and planning to find new markets even before Russia invaded Ukraine, Cyprus is projected to make up a sizable chunk of the lost revenue.
More vacationers are expected this summer from European markets, including Scandinavian countries, France and Germany, who spend more per day on average than Russians.
“Now we are a point of comparison where, you know, a Russian person will be leaving in Cyprus around 60 euros per person per day, whereas other nationalities, around 90 euros,” Perdios says.
While there were no direct flights from France to Cyprus two years ago, 20 flights will take off each week this year. Weekly flights from Germany and Scandinavian countries have increased to 50 and 30, respectively, this year — higher than in 2019.
Lozides says hotel owners may be reporting fewer bookings than 2019, but higher guest spending is expected to boost revenue.
Both Loizides and Perdios say this optimism is driven by the public’s desire to get away after two years of pandemic lockdowns.
“Nothing is going to stop people from traveling this year,” Perdios said.
Loizides said hotel owners haven’t given up entirely on bringing Russian tourists this summer. He says they’re looking into possibly getting Russians to Cyprus through countries not bound by the flight ban, like Serbia, Georgia and Israel.
Perdios says his ministry’s revamped tourism strategy has gained traction in European markets as it highlights what Cyprus has to offer beyond sun and surf.
That includes vegan-friendly hotels and winery tours through mountainous villages to learn about wines such as Commandaria, winner of the first international wine competition in 1224.
“We have done so much work in order to be able to stand before you today and say, ‘Hey, you know what? It’s going to be an OK season. It’s going to be a decent season. It’s not a disaster. And we’re going to be all right,’” Perdios said.
Comply with AP’s protection of the Ukraine struggle at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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