Junior ministry for tourism at last
E DII TO RII A L
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.