(MENAFN- AFP) Optimism that tourism would lift bailed-out Cyprus from recession was dented on Friday as revenues from tourist spending plunged 14.5 percent in March on the same month last year, official data showed.
Income from tourism had started to rise during the start of the year, with receipts in February up 10.5 percent. But March's downturn followed a 16.3 percent drop in arrivals.
Tourism income in March fell to 56.5 million euros from 66 million euros in the same month of 2013.
For the three-month period from January to March revenues from tourism reached 118.5 million euros compared to 125.3 million euros in the same period of 2013, representing a 5.4 percent drop.
Last year the debt-ridden island overcame financial meltdown brought on by a banking crisis to record an 8 percent hike in tourism revenues.
Despite annual tourist arrivals dipping 2.4 percent to 2.4 million in 2013, revenues generated from holidaymakers increased to 2.08 billion euros â€“- its highest level for more than a decade -- from 1.92 billion in 2012.
Cyprus also came close to matching its record year for tourism revenues when 2.17 billion was spent in 2001.
The average daily amount spent by tourists in March was 69.30 euros while the average length of stay was 10.5 days.
This compares to lower average daily spending of 67.40 euros in March 2013 on average stays of 10.6 days.
Irish were the biggest spenders in March at an average 126 euros a day, while the Danes were the most frugal spending 39.60 euros.
After two years of deep recession, Cyprus's shell-shocked economy looks set to start growing again next year, the EU predicts.
The government had feared that the recession would deepen into double-digit figures in the wake of the bailout crisis in March last year.
Nicosia is hoping tourism income will aid a "miracle recovery" from the blow dealt by the Eurogroup's deposits haircut as part of a 23 billion bail-in/bailout deal with international lenders.
Tourism authorities believe resurgence in the key sector will pull the economy out of recession quicker than expected and limit the extent of the contraction.
Cyprus is reliant on big spending Russians while more British -- the island's biggest market -â€“ are expected to return this summer.
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