Cyprus tourism drop worsens in October

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The pace of the year-on-year decline in tourist arrivals in Cyprus accelerated to 14 percent last month from 9.6 percent in September, official figures showed on Thursday.

The number of holidaymakers jetting in to the Mediterranean island sank to 230,431 in October from 267,866 a year earlier, hit by a hefty 29.6 percent reverse in arrivals from Russia and a 19.1 percent dip from Britain - the island's biggest holiday market.

The blow was slightly softened by a 21.9 percent spike in tourists from Greece.

For the ten months to October, Cyprus tourist arrivals have dived 11.1 percent, overshooting the government's forecast of a 10 percent drop for the whole of 2009.

From January to October inclusive visitor numbers to the sunbaked Republic of Cyprus fell to 1.98 million from 2.23 million in the same period last year.

Bookings for next summer are down 20 percent, according to estimates.

To help ease the crisis, the government last week approved a 65 million euro tourism support package including loan guarantees for hotels and airport fee waivers.

A large majority of the island's tourists come from recession-hit European Union countries and Russia.

A fall in tourism revenue and arrivals has been instrumental in the Cyprus economy going into decline for the first time in three decades.

The country is technically in recession after GDP shrank by 0.6 percent in the first quarter and 0.5 percent in the second.

The government hopes tourism will receive a lift from the new state-of-the-art Larnaca airport, opened this month, but tour operators have complained about high charges for using the new facility.

Tourism contributes around 12 percent to the island's GDP.