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President Nicos Anastasiades has declared that his government plans to draft a national strategy on tourism, probably the fifth in two decades, in an effort to pluck Cyprus out of the doldrums of arrival numbers to beyond the 2-2.5 mln tourists received in the past ten years.
Communications and Works Minister Marios Demetriades, addressing the annual meeting of the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents (ACTA) on behalf of President Anastasiades, said the government had carefully examined the problems in the sector and was promoting solutions.
He said it was encouraging that increases in arrivals and revenue were recorded this year, adding that compared to last year tourist arrivals rose by about 6% by July, with a significant increase from Russia, which together with the UK, account for about 65% of all arrivals.
However, this did not take into consideration the flat-line in arrival numbers as tourists find cheaper destinations and Cyprus remains uncompetitive due to high labour, accommodation and flight costs.
The President believes the government should aim to maintain existing markets, invest in emerging markets, improve accessibility, address seasonality, and promote Cyprus abroad. These targets have been laid out by successive administrations, but for some reason, they have not been achieved, either due to incompetence in government or the lack of funds available to the Cyprus Tourism Organisation to better market the island as a quality destination.
Anastasiades said that further tourist infrastructure was set to be created, which would be of top quality and able to raise Cyprus to a completely new level of services and experience.
ACTA and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KEVE) officials seem optimistic over the future prospects of the tourist industry but have also pointed out the need for the right measures to be taken in order to improve weaknesses.
ACTA President Victor Mantovanis spoke of “the need for a long-term but at the same time flexible strategy guided by vision and common sense”. Despite having many positive elements working in its favour, he noted, Cyprus as a tourist destination is in serious need of an upgrade.
He also referred to a lack of a strong “branding” and the need to show off Cyprus’ comparative advantages to other destinations.
He expressed optimism for the future of tourism, adding at the same time Cyprus should recover its lost competitiveness and its market share. He added that the industry should focus on the warmth in the traditional Cypriot hospitality, gastronomy, cleanliness and training.
KEVE Chamber President Phidias Pilides right restructuring measures need to be taken.
This year’s positive tourist data are particularly important since our country is in a recession and is trying to recover, he
the said, warning that this should not lead to complacency.
Our tourist product has “structural problems, inherent weaknesses and multiple distortions” he said, adding that this was evident from the fact that only the tourist market of Russia recorded an increase while others remained the same or dropped.
If we are bold enough to place tourism on a new and modern basis then “we are certain that it can offer more”, he said.
As regards specific measures, he said there is a need to reduce seasonality, to create quality infrastructure projects, to renovate hotels and tourist accommodation, to manage costs, to seek new tourist markets or expand existing ones, to liberalise flights from and to Cyprus and to take advantage of alternative tourism aspects.
Cyprus, he said, could receive over 3 mln tourists per year, a goal which can and should be achieved within the next few years.
The bankruptcy of another Russian tourist agency will not affect the number of arrivals, ACTA’s Mantovanis said, noting however that Cyprus should stop depending on a small number of markets.
He said that the Russian agency, the fourth to go belly-up this year, has channelled around 15,000 tourists during the summer period.
“Currently”, he added, “we are in September, so bankruptcy will not affect the total number of arrivals.”
Mantovanis said that there are only 600-700 Russian tourists stranded in Cyprus, waiting to see with which flights they will return to their country.
“This is not healthy,” he said, adding that “we are not saying that we should abandon either Russia or UK, but we must also look into other traditional markets.”
Mantovanis gave the examples of other major European markets like Germany, France and Italy.
Already, the Paphos Regional Board of Tourism said on Monday that a new German carrier plans to introduce seven weekly flights from five airports starting in March next year.
Nasos Hadjigeorgiou, Executive Manager of PRBT said that ‘Germania’ will launch new flights to Paphos from Dusseldorf, Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen and Erfurt, following negotiations with the CTO, airports operator Hermes and his organisation.
He said that Germania already operates destinations with a fleet of 23 aircraft.
Hadjigeorgiou has in the past praised low-cost operator Ryanair’s choice to use Paphos airport as a hub that has brought in hundreds of thousands of new tourists, with the Irish-based airline aiming for 500,000 passengers a year.