There is a lot of talk on measures to be undertaken in an effort to extend the tourist season by at least two months (October and November) at the end of the season and two months (March and April) at the start of the next.
The worrying thing is that after so many years there is not a single solid proposal of a tangible nature, other than the proposal for the rest of us to subsidise the hoteliers and tour operators, so that tourists get a lower cost holiday. In other words, all we Cyprus taxpayers, will contribute in addition to hoteliers/tour operators and help “cheaters” (e.g. restaurants, tax drivers and others) to make more money. So far we are doing well due to the misfortune of other destinations, but how long will this last for, another 1-2 years?
Extending the tourist season is most important for the real estate market which goes hand in hand with the tourist industry in terms of Cyprus popularity and for rental/income purposes, making such investments more attractive.
In order for the tourist season to be extended we need first to compare our product with our competitors, such as Greece, Turkey and gradually recovering Egypt. This might be examined first in terms of travel cost and their cost of living/holiday.
Since the closure of the earlier state-owned Cyprus Airways, things are improving with new market sources and lower travel cost.
The first in our competitive edge is the weather which in the mildest range of our competitors. The second is the improving infrastructure with the five golf courses open to the public (expensive in relation to Turkey), the English speaking language/European attitude to an extent (try Turkey/Egypt) and security of living.
But then what is the “winter/off season” tourist going to do? It needs organisation and promotion of things to do and an imaginative team of hoteliers/tour operators/C.T.O. – (if the latter has the time to work after their internal quarrelling).
It is my opinion that, first, one prepares the package, it presents it to the tour operators and then supplement the package with whatever is needed. So, what are the off season tourists to do in Cyprus?
In addition to golf, there is a wealth of possibilities using outdoor activities and including the use of the water dams for sport, e.g. rowing, sailing for small boats, ski lessons, dragon racing, fishing competitions, etc (subject to water capacity). There could be one club in each location (B.O.T. projects) with the tour operators/hoteliers’ contribution. The outdoor activities can include inter-hotels competitions such as beach volley, badminton, tennis, etc. Local associations can assist in this - despite the major problem regarding pending regulations in the House to be approved for water dams for their use for sports for the last ten years.
These nature trails are becoming more and more popular especially those in the mountain areas (Troodos). The trails could be used for walks, nature exploration with the ever enthusiastic Forestry Department employees (see new botanic garden at Amiandos), donkey rides, including fun races using facilities (to an extent) of the SBA (Secret Valley) since the S.B.A. is most cooperative, especially for charity events.
An innovative popular venue at Samos island during the winter season. The tourists are taught how to make local dishes, e.g. mousaka, sougla, pasticcio, etc, under the directions of a chef. Each tourist prepares his own dish with a prize at the end.
Young and old dream to ride a horse (or donkey) with a log cabin/ restaurant at the end. More suitable for the young in age but also those young at heart. Try the Kourris or Ezousa dry bed rivers. We had one overnight stay in the open during summer in tents at Kourris (donkeys – tents, etc) which was great fun.
Surprisingly enthusiastic clergy are ready to facilitate free of charge any excursion for visits to historic churches and monasteries.
You might think that there are no racing tracks for such events. Yet, I visit from time to time the Ayia Varvara (Nicosia) motorbike track, one in Paphos as well, a sailing school at Paphos and hopefully another one at the Zyghi marina, underwater exploration (with the Limassol-Paralimni purposely sunk boats), the “under construction” underwater park at Ayia Napa (announced but did not happen) and so many other ventures.
This sort of “new business” are most suitable for young especially unemployed professionals and others who are subsidised by the Cyprus government and the E.U. for young entrepreneurs. I must tell you about a friend of ours who has studied at the London School of Economics, he then became a chartered accountant (now aged 31 years), he did not like his job and is now considering to venture into water sports, yoga and diet courses (healthy living). Why not?
Not exploited to any satisfactory degree, yet there are so many attractive establishments. Our favorite is at Omodhos village, which combines a winery route, winery visits and a big party at the evening with local music/dancers, etc. A day visit to three local wineries (all free) is an experience – see Erimi to Omodhos “wine” road.
There is just about one every week, where local rural producers sell their goods, ranging from local artifacs to pottery and food (such as nuts, corn, shoushoukko, lizo, chestnuts on charcoal, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, etc etc). Lovely for young and old.
There are so many more things to do for all ages and this article is not big enough to include them all.
So, how do we go about it? First of all, the leadership is to be undertaken by the C.T.O. (a very good suggestion for a Deputy Ministry of Tourism) or others in private practice to make a comprehensive list of the events and their attraction (hard copy leaflets and a website is a must). This leadership must get the costing right and provide a comprehensive “things to do” list, discuss the whole programme with tour operators and promote the project to foreign (and of course local) potential clients.
Use E.U. funds to promote environmental funds, new entrepreneurs and unemployment funds. But then, we have to confront the taxis, restaurants, taverns, etc. who must come under strict control by inspectors regarding prices, since as we have reported in the past there is a lot of daylight robbery going around.
Those interested to register into a “recommended list”, would need to pay a small fee (say 100 euros p.a.) to be included in the promotional material subject to their commitment on quality and prices. All those to be checked regularly by inspections so that we do not have the same situation as is today.
Do we have the capability to do this? Of course, we do, but then do we have the organisation and honest dealings? For this I have my doubts – without a plan this is difficult.
On another note, do you know of the donkey farm at Skarinou village, which is developing not only for tourist purposes, but also promoting donkey milk and its side products (the Camel Farm at Mazotos, etc.)? Do you know about vine picking at the Pissouri area (no pay, but lunch and drink is free), potato picking at Famagusta region – great fun. Each picker gets 5 kilos of potatoes free or he can cash it with the sougla that comes in exchange. Has anyone thought of dog training on a professional side? Lessons are given for 15 days.
These are some ideas for extending the tourist season and the list is endless. With this article I hope I provided some food for thought, especially to those sleepers in the tourist industry and to those constantly demanding subsidies, the hoteliers, trade unions and others.