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 similar faith” in Ukraine.
Till the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, masses of Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox devoted visiting Cyprus would come day by day to venerate the relic. Custom dictates it used to be formed by way of Luke the Evangelist from beeswax and mastic and blessed by way of the Virgin herself as a real illustration of her symbol.
With the struggle and a Ecu Union ban on Russian flights, the estimated 800,000 Russian and Ukrainian travelers that head to Cyprus every 12 months for its heat, azure waters and non secular historical past stretching again to the morning time of Christianity are almost all the way down to 0. In record-setting 2019, they made up a 5th of all vacationers to the island country within the Mediterranean Sea south of Turkey.
“We’ve had many worshippers from those two international locations combating nowadays,” Agathonikos mentioned. “I want and pray to our Virgin that those two peoples who combat nowadays are proven the best way to peace — the devoted in each international locations must pray for that.”
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He’s the abbot of Kykkos Monastery at the northeastern ridgeline of Cyprus’ Troodos mountain vary, which has been house to the icon for just about one thousand years. It, the tomb of St. Lazarus in Larnaca and the monastery of Stavrovouni that properties a big piece of the Holy Pass are necessary Cyprus stops for Russians and Ukrainians on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Agathonikos mentioned.
Their absence this 12 months, coming at 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 economic system. Different countries 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 overall about 600 million euros ($645 million) this 12 months, with expectancies earlier than the struggle that the collection of guests could be drawing near that of 2019.
Cyprus is among the shortest flights from Russia to any Mediterranean vacation vacation spot, however the EU flight ban negated that merit.
Companies are hurting, particularly native go back and forth businesses that paintings with large excursion operators that specialize in the Russian marketplace. Some inns on Cyprus’ in style jap sea coast that catered to Russian travelers are feeling the edge, too, mentioned Haris Loizides, board president of the Cyprus Resort Affiliation.
An extra burden weighing on resort house owners is top inflation that has cranked up running prices, he mentioned.
Vassos Xidias, owner of a seafood tavern bearing his title overlooking the small Ayia Napa harbor, says his trade has dropped by way of up to 50% this 12 months on account of dropping the Russian marketplace.
“There’s an enormous drawback in our paintings,” Xidias mentioned. “Now, we’ll see how a lot this will probably be coated by way of the Ecu marketplace and others. It’s the gamble that we’re ready to look over the following 4 months that stay” of the vacationer season.
In spite of the upheaval, officers say that due to foresight and making plans to seek out new markets even earlier than Russia invaded Ukraine, Cyprus is projected to make up a large chew of the misplaced income.
Extra travelers are anticipated this summer time from Ecu markets, together with Scandinavian international locations, France and Germany, who spend extra in step with day on reasonable than Russians.
“Now we’re some degree of comparability the place, you understand, a Russian individual will probably be leaving in Cyprus round 60 euros in step with individual in step with day, while different nationalities, round 90 euros,” Perdios says.
Whilst there have been no direct flights from France to Cyprus two years in the past, 20 flights will take off every week this 12 months. Weekly flights from Germany and Scandinavian international locations have larger to 50 and 30, respectively, this 12 months — upper than in 2019.
Lozides says resort house owners could also be reporting fewer bookings than 2019, however upper visitor spending is predicted to spice up income.
Each Loizides and Perdios say this optimism is pushed by way of the general public’s need to break out after two years of pandemic lockdowns.
“Not anything goes to prevent other folks from touring this 12 months,” Perdios mentioned.
Loizides mentioned resort house owners haven’t given up solely on bringing Russian vacationers this summer time. He says they’re taking a look into perhaps getting Russians to Cyprus thru international locations now not sure by way of the flight ban, like Serbia, Georgia and Israel.
Perdios says his ministry’s remodeled tourism technique has received traction in Ecu markets because it highlights what Cyprus has to supply past solar and surf.
That comes with vegan-friendly inns and vineyard excursions thru mountainous villages to be informed about wines comparable to Commandaria, winner of the primary global wine festival in 1224.
“We have now performed such a lot paintings so as so to stand earlier than you nowadays and say, ‘Howdy, you understand what? It’s going to be an OK season. It’s going to be a tight season. It’s now not a crisis. And we’re going to be all proper,’” Perdios mentioned.
Apply AP’s protection of the Ukraine struggle at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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