, NICOSIA, Cyprus, Jan 17 – More than three million tourists visited Cyprus in 2016, data showed Tuesday, making it a record year for the Mediterranean island seen as a regional safe haven.
The finance ministry said the number of tourists going to the eastern Mediterranean country rose by about one fifth from 2015 to nearly 3.19 million, beating the previous record of 2.69 million set in 2001.
Arrivals in December alone increased 12.2 percent from a year earlier to 87,927, it said.
The Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) hailed a “milestone year”.
“With respect to 2017, although the signs are positive, it will take a huge effort from everyone, needing professionalism, commitment and coordination, to achieve results equivalent or better than those of 2016,” the state-run body said.
Cyprus has benefited from a surge in arrivals from its largest markets Britain and Russia as well as a revival in those coming from Greece and Israel.
The island is seen as a safe haven for tourists, with other traditionally popular destinations in the eastern Mediterranean having been hit by political upheaval and security fears.
The biggest annual rise in arrivals was from Israel up 50.9 percent to 148,739.
There was an 11.2 percent increase in the number of tourists from Britain the country’s largest source of holidaymakers to around 1.16 million, the finance ministry said.
Those from its second-biggest market, Russia, jumped 48.9 percent in 2016 to 781,634.
The influx is a boon for Cyprus, which has returned to growth following a 10-billion-euro rescue package to save its crumbling economy and insolvent banks in March 2013.
Income from tourism accounts for about 12 percent of the eurozone member’s gross domestic product and is credited for ensuring a relatively quick recovery.