NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – Tourism in Cyprus was shot in the arm on Tuesday after the European environmental watchdog ranked the country first out of 27 countries in the European Union for having the waters of cleanest bathing.

According to the European Environment Agency’s ranking for the 2020 bathing season, Cyprus received a perfect score of 100% for excellent water quality at 112 bathing sites around the island, which have been tested between May 1 and October 31 last year.

Cyprus beat Austria, Greece and Malta, who finished second, third and fourth.

It’s a welcome boost for the eastern Mediterranean island nation, which is trying to woo holidaymakers after a gloomy 2020 summer season that saw tourist arrivals drop by more than 84% from the previous year, record.

Tourism directly accounts for 13% of Cyprus’ gross domestic product and industry officials say they cannot face another disastrous year, especially without state financial support.

“There is a direct correlation between the quality of bathing water and tourism and therefore the excellent results are very important not only for the health of bathers and the environment, but also for the economy of Cyprus”, said said Environment Minister Costas Kadis.

The key to a healthy economy in Cyprus is to bring tourists back from the UK – its main tourist market.

Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios is currently touring the UK to pique the interest of tour operators after UK authorities put Cyprus on the government’s ‘green’ list. This means visiting Britons will not need to undergo a mandatory quarantine period upon their return home.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou told public broadcaster CyBC on Tuesday that Cyprus and Denmark currently have the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in Europe, while Cyprus ranks third in percentage of the population having received at least one vaccine.

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