Cyprus tourism revenue dives 16.7 percent in 2009

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Revenue from Cyprus's vital tourism sector plummeted 16.7 percent in 2009, underscoring a bad year for the Mediterranean island's economy, official figures showed on Monday.

Income from tourism, which makes up 12 percent of gross domestic product, fell to an estimated 1.49 billion euros in January to December from 1.79 billion euros in 2008.

In December alone the slide was 17.3 percent - one of the steepest monthly drops of the year - with revenue from holidaymakers down to 42.7 million euros from 51.6 million in the same month of 2008.

Tourism receipts were in negative territory for 12 consecutive months.

Tourism income for 2008 as a whole fell 3.5 percent to 1.79 billion euros from 1.85 billion in 2007.

The average daily spend by tourists last December was 58.6 euros and the average stay was 11 days.

Israelis were the biggest spenders at 107.7 euros a day while Finns were the most frugal, spending just 42 euros a day on average.

The annual drop in revenue is linked to a 10.9 percent decrease in the number of tourist arrivals for 2009.

Bumper spending by holidaymakers helped the island achieve GDP growth of 4.4 percent in 2007, easing to 3.7 percent in 2008.

On the back of disappointing tourism income, the finance ministry is expecting 0.5 percent negative GDP growth for 2009 as the economy is still struggling to come out of recession.

The lion's share of visitors holidaying in Cyprus comes from fellow recession-hit EU countries, especially Britain, Greece and Germany.

Tourist numbers from Britain - the island's largest market - were down by 14 percent last year with the biggest drop from Russia at 17.8 percent.