Ju­nior min­istry for tourism at last

E DII TO RII A L

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The an­nounce­ment for the es­tab­lish­ment of the gov­ern­ment’s sec­ond ju­nior min­istry, that for tourism, is ex­pected by June 15, af­ter which the semigov­ern­ment Cyprus Tourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion will be up­graded to a full state depart­ment with a po­lit­i­cal ap­pointee Deputy Min­is­ter in charge.

This fol­lows the up­grade ear­lier this year ( and five years late) of the Depart­ment of Mer­chant Shipping that was re­named Deputy Min­istry of Shipping, in what was a smooth tran­si­tion within a ma­ture and well-or­gan­ised sec­tor of the econ­omy.

The Cyprus mar­itime clus­ter, that ac­counts for around 7% of na­tional eco­nomic out­put, is prob­a­bly the most ef­fi­cient sec­tor on the is­land, as it mainly serves the pri­vate sec­tor and is driven by the ini­tia­tives and wis­dom of peo­ple in the know, some of whom are in­ter­na­tion­ally re­garded as cap­tains of the in­dus­try (ex­cuse the pun). In other words, the change in the DMS, with a Deputy Min­is­ter in charge, was a much-needed and suc­cess­ful change that will see tan­gi­ble re­sults very soon, with im­prove­ments in the civil ser­vice that run the mech­a­nism and a bet­ter im­age over­seas.

In the case of tourism how­ever, that is re­garded as the main driv­ing force of the econ­omy, a lot still needs to be done and this will be a tall or­der for the shoul­ders of the new Deputy Min­is­ter of Tourism who will carry a heavy bur­den. The CTO has had a hand­ful of strate­gic plans for tourism drafted by lo­cal and over­seas ex­perts, all of which have had the same con­clu­sion – Cyprus needs to be­come more ef­fi­cient, rip-offs must be com­bated, and the tourism prod­uct needs to change and adapt in or­der to re­main com­pet­i­tive with the rest of the mar­ket and ri­val des­ti­na­tions. But Cyprus, and the tourism sec­tor in par­tic­u­lar, have en­joyed favourable co­in­ci­dences that have main­tained the is­land as a sta­ble and se­cure hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, where oth­ers have been strug­gling with ter­ror­ism, dis­as­ters or eco­nomic plight. In­dus­try ex­perts have long warned that Cyprus needs to im­prove on qual­ity and ser­vice, first by in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture, and then main­tain­ing good prices for a good prod­uct. But how can th­ese warn­ings be heard when the CTO of­fice in Lon­don, the big­gest mar­ket for Cyprus tourism, has been head­less for sev­eral months and tour op­er­a­tors say the of­fice is un­der­manned.

With­out a doubt, there are some CTO over­seas of­fices that are run as a ‘one man show’ and kudos to th­ese peo­ple who con­tinue to do a great job. On the other hand, some other of­fices do not have the right sup­port, not even from the diplo­matic mis­sions in the same coun­try or gov­ern­ment de­part­ments back home, while, as with any over­seas ap­point­ment of civil ser­vants, there are also a hand­ful of un­der­achiev­ers who should prob­a­bly stay home.

The new Deputy Min­is­ter for Tourism must be a per­son from the in­dus­try who will en­joy the re­spect of the whole sec­tor, while at the same time be able to ma­neu­ver through a mine­field called the civil ser­vice and help im­prove Cyprus’ im­age over­seas. A tall or­der, in­deed.

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