KYKKOS MONASTERY, Cyprus (AP) — Archimandrite Agathonikos bows ahead of the silver-included icon of the Virgin Mary to offer you prayers for an end to the war between “peoples of the exact same religion” in Ukraine.
Until the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox faithful viewing Cyprus would come day by day to venerate the relic. Tradition dictates it was fashioned by Luke the Evangelist from beeswax and mastic and blessed by the Virgin herself as a legitimate illustration of her picture.
With the war and a European Union ban on Russian flights, the approximated 800,000 Russian and Ukrainian vacationers that head to Cyprus every single calendar year for its warm, azure waters and spiritual historical past stretching again to the dawn of Christianity are almost down to zero. In record-setting 2019, they created up a fifth of all vacationers to the island country in the Mediterranean Sea south of Turkey.
“We’ve experienced numerous worshippers from these two international locations preventing right now,” Agathonikos stated. “I want and pray to our Virgin that these two peoples who struggle today are demonstrated the way to peace — the devoted in each nations ought to pray for that.”
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He is the abbot of Kykkos Monastery on the northeastern ridgeline of Cyprus’ Troodos mountain array, which has been home to the icon for virtually a thousand decades. It, the tomb of St. Lazarus in Larnaca and the monastery of Stavrovouni that residences a massive piece of the Holy Cross are critical Cyprus stops for Russians and Ukrainians on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Agathonikos explained.
Their absence this calendar year, coming on the back of a steep drop in tourism at the pandemic’s outset, has minimize into the earnings of a nation whose tourism sector accounts for additional than 10% of its economic climate. Other nations that count on Russian and Ukrainian site visitors like Turkey, Cuba and Egypt also braced for losses just as tourism began bouncing back.
Cyprus Deputy Minister for Tourism Savvas Perdios estimates the decline from Russian and Ukrainian people will overall about 600 million euros ($645 million) this calendar year, with expectations prior to the war that the selection of people would be approaching that of 2019.
Cyprus is 1 of the shortest flights from Russia to any Mediterranean holiday break vacation spot, but the EU flight ban negated that advantage.
Businesses are hurting, in particular community journey agencies that function with big tour operators focusing on the Russian sector. Some hotels on Cyprus’ well-known eastern shoreline that catered to Russian vacationers are emotion the sting, too, stated Haris Loizides, board president of the Cyprus Hotel Affiliation.
An additional burden weighing on hotel house owners is significant inflation that has cranked up functioning fees, he explained.
Vassos Xidias, proprietor of a seafood tavern bearing his name overlooking the modest Ayia Napa harbor, suggests his organization has dropped by as significantly as 50% this yr due to the fact of shedding the Russian marketplace.
“There’s a huge problem in our work,” Xidias explained. “Now, we’ll see how substantially this will be coated by the European market place and some others. It’s the gamble that we’re ready to see more than the next four months that remain” of the vacationer period.
Regardless of the upheaval, officers say that thanks to foresight and preparing to locate new markets even before Russia invaded Ukraine, Cyprus is projected to make up a sizable chunk of the dropped income.
More vacationers are predicted this summer months from European markets, which includes Scandinavian nations, France and Germany, who commit additional for every working day on common than Russians.
“Now we are a level of comparison the place, you know, a Russian individual will be leaving in Cyprus about 60 euros for each particular person per working day, whereas other nationalities, close to 90 euros,” Perdios suggests.
Whilst there were being no immediate flights from France to Cyprus two many years back, 20 flights will take off each week this year. Weekly flights from Germany and Scandinavian international locations have elevated to 50 and 30, respectively, this 12 months — better than in 2019.
Lozides claims hotel house owners may perhaps be reporting fewer bookings than 2019, but better guest paying is envisioned to increase profits.
Both of those Loizides and Perdios say this optimism is driven by the public’s need to get away following two many years of pandemic lockdowns.
“Nothing is going to cease folks from touring this 12 months,” Perdios reported.
Loizides reported hotel owners have not supplied up completely on bringing Russian visitors this summer. He states they are searching into maybe acquiring Russians to Cyprus via nations not sure by the flight ban, like Serbia, Ga and Israel.
Perdios says his ministry’s revamped tourism system has acquired traction in European marketplaces as it highlights what Cyprus has to give past solar and surf.
That includes vegan-pleasant motels and vineyard tours through mountainous villages to master about wines these types of as Commandaria, winner of the very first international wine level of competition in 1224.
“We have carried out so a lot get the job done in get to be able to stand ahead of you nowadays and say, ‘Hey, you know what? It is heading to be an Alright season. It’s likely to be a respectable season. It is not a disaster. And we’re heading to be all right,’” Perdios reported.
Stick to AP’s coverage of the Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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