Sustainability a must for tourism industry
E DII TO RII A L
The junior ministry of tourism, evolving from the cumbersome Cyprus Tourism Organisation into a fully functioning government department later this year, will have its hands full in determining future policies for a sector that accounts for about half of all national output.
Over the years, expensive consultants have come and gone, with costly studies commissioned that have ended nowhere, or are still collecting dust in a bottom drawer somewhere.
The government’s priority should not have been to transform the CTO into another civil service department, with all the negatives that this entails, but rather to improve the competitiveness of the Cyprus tourism product or at least to secure a key position in niche markets.
The World Tourism Organisation, the UN’s advisory body that helps develop such policies has been seriously promoting sustainability in tourism, with a recent report suggesting that this initiative “needs an extra push”.
Sustainability is how Cyprus can market itself better in the “quality tourism” sector, rather than resort to knee-jerk reactions to global demands such as golf, cycling and religious tourism.
This simply suggests that we are following trends, instead of leading with our own concepts.
Business maybe booming but Cyprus is vying for tourists in an intensely competitive region where it faces stiff competition from a resurgent Turkey and Egypt.
The WTO has hit the nail on the head, it set a target “Towards 2030: Making tourism smarter, more competitive and more responsible” which is what Cyprus should be doing.
The WTO General Assembly this week outlined the following five priorities needed to be focused on for 2018-2019.
Priority 1. Make tourism smarter: connect and scale up innovation and the digital transformation.
Priority 2. Grow a competitive edge: investments to stimulate entrepreneurship and SMEs in tourism
Priority 3. Create more and better jobs: improve skills, education and specialized training programmes.
Priority 4. Build resilience and facilitate travel: resilience through crisis preparedness and communication plus cooperation to increase connectivity.
Priority 5. Protect heritage: social, cultural and environmental sustainability. Advance sustainable consumption and production in the tourism sector.
Tourism can can make a meaningful and substantial contribution towards achieving sustainable development and Cyprus needs to be riding that train.
Innovative ideas should also be supported, such as eco-sustainable and green hotel units, hi-tech facilities that reduce consumption and waste, better recycling and re-using of waste water and other, smarter ways of keeping cool during the summer.
Then there’s the infrastructure, we need better roads, an upgraded telecoms network and a holistic approach that would give Cyprus the value-added edge over other tourist destinations.