Sus­tain­abil­ity a must for tourism in­dus­try

E DII TO RII A L

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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