Cyprus finance minister economy will shrink by five percent

… there will be a recession and GDP could contract by about 5 per cent. — Cyprus Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides

Cyprus Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides has opened himself up to ridicule by claiming Cyprus economy will shrink by about five per cent.

If we look at European countries in lockdown, with most sectors shut down, economies will shrink by far more than five percent.

Only five percent with total collapse of Cyprus tourist industry?

Or is this a tacit admission that the only beneficiaries of the tourist sector were a handful of hoteliers and the foreign tour companies?

Before coronavirus crisis Cyprus tourist industry was close to collapse, all-inclusive hotels bringing in the dregs of the tourist industry, quality tourists driven away, with little money flowing into the local economy.

One only had to walk the streets and observe the empty bars and restaurants and coffee shops.

EasyJet has grounded its fleet. British Airways suspended its operation at Gatwick.

Tui was in debt to the tune of 2 billion euros before the coronavirus pandemic.

UK has said it will not bailout out the airline industry. A petition before UK Parliament is calling upon the government to not bailout the industry, instead transition to a Green New Deal.

Airlines and tour company tui are dragging their feet to pay compensation for cancelled flights and holidays. Trying to palm clients off with worthless vouchers.

Why have hotels on the front page of their websites no coronavirus information? Why are they taking bookings when not likely to be open, when Cyprus in lockdown, airports closed?

The rare exception Sunrise hotels:

Important Announcement for COVID-19
In accordance with the new measures taken by the Cyprus Government, all Sunrise Hotels will be closed until 30/04/2020.
For direct bookings we are offering the flexibility to amend the travel dates without any cancellation fee. For further information or assistance please contact us at: reservations@sunrise.com.cy.
For other bookings made through Tour Operators or Travel Agents, please contact them for alternative solutions.

When Thomas Cook collapsed, the opportunity was not taken to restructure the tourist industry. Far from grasping the opportunity the collapse of Thomas Cook offered, the worst of all possible worlds, tui was allowed to grab a greater share of the market, bad for hoteliers, bad for tourists.

The opportunity must not be lost this time around.

The focus must be on fewer tourists, quality tourists.

Improve quality everywhere, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, hotels.

Shut down the noisy bars that attract the dregs of the tourist industry.

Replace with traditional tavernas and coffee shops. It would be difficult to find good examples without visiting Plaka in Athens. Paul’s Coffee Roasters and Lazaris (though not for coffee) near St Lazarus Church in the back streets of Larnaca set high standards, take a pride in what they do, as does Nick’s Coffee Bike outside Larnaca Marina, but these are the rare exceptions, not the norm, oasis amidst the dross. Once the norm in Cyprus, until a race to the bottom to attract custom from all-inclusive hotels, a race no one can win.

Grecian Park and Crystal Springs set high standards, few hotels come anywhere near.

Outlaw all-inclusive hotels that are killing the local economy.

Restrict tour operator bookings to less than 20% of bookings, encourage direct bookings. Tour operators forced to settle their accounts at the end of every month.

Reliance on euro bonds is a non-starter as has already been vetoed by Germany and Holland. I would refer to critical comment by Yanis Varoufakis.

Recommendations for the short term.

Furlough staff as in UK with government covering 80% of wage, with a cap of 2,500 euros per month.

A similar scheme for the self employed, 80% of average earning over last three years.

Grants and soft loans to small businesses, but with strings attached, quality has to improve.

For hotels, only to groups of five hotels or less. No bailout of large chains.

No bailout for corporate chains.

In China, one man with covid-19 travelling on a bus, infected nine fellow passengers.

Now imagine on a plane with one person with covid-19, passing through a busy airport, then getting on public transport.

Ever travelled on the packed-in-like-sardines 101/102 local bus that runs Paralimni – Protaras – Ayia Napa? Now imagine one person on that bus with covid-19.

Until such time that Cyprus has temperature screening at airports, facilities to detain, test, quarantine, temperature screening of everyone every time they enter a hotel, cannot even contemplate opening Cyprus to tourists. And even then only for hotels, not apartments.

In absence of such measures why are hotels taking bookings for as early as Easter? And these bookings cannot be from within the country as Cyprus is in lockdown.

EU has closed its borders for the foreseeable future.

No Russians, no one from outside of EU.

Countries have also closed their borders.

Israel closed its borders weeks ago, Russia has closed its borders with strict self-isolating and heavy fines if venture out.

As always, Cyprus grasping at straws rather than doing what it takes, hard graft and addressing systemic problems within the tourist industry.

EU will come to the rescue, Brits will come to the rescue, Russians will come to the rescue.

Latest was, Chinese dirty money will come to the rescue.

With Chinese tourists it overlooks one very simple fact, Chinese tourists are cultural tourists, hence Athens, Oxford, Cambridge. Low life bars in Cyprus,  somehow I think not.

FCO advice, do not travel overseas. Lockdown in UK for six months.

Speaking on Channel 4 News, former WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland has said that she expects coronavirus crisis to last at least 18 months, until such time as a vaccine is available.

Is Cyprus foolish enough to open its borders and risk many covid-19 deaths?

One advantage of being an island, easy to control entry to the country.

Europe the epicentre of coronavirus.

Spain and Italy the death toll exceeds that of China. UK, slow to act, daily mortality rate is fast approaching that of Spain, Russia not far behind.

Cyprus would have to be very slow to open its borders to visitors from Europe. Temperature screening at airports, with facilities to isolate, trace and quarantine. Only hotels open. Temperature screen of everyone each and every time they enter the hotel. Hotels restricted to maximum of half capacity, gyms, saunas, massage not open, social distancing, dining well spaced apart, same true of sunbeds. Moot point if pools open. If open, strict limit on numbers in the pool, strict enforcement of shower before and after use of the pool. Sunbeds thoroughly cleaned every evening. Hotels where clients packed in like sardines on sunbeds, not permitted to open.

Any hotel where cases of coronavirus, quarantined for a month.

Larnaca, minimum of 50% of the sunbeds removed from the beach.

Oh and not forgetting, oil and gas will come to the rescue, conveniently ignoring oil at $10 a barrel and Climate Emergency will destroy Cyprus tourist industry, too hot, rising sea levels and storms will wash away beaches and flood Larnaca.

Covid-19 is not the only crisis, the other is Climate Emergency.

We cannot return to businesses as usual.

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