Cyprus tourism will face an uphill struggle if it allows standards and quality of service provided to tourists slip, giving way to a rise in complaints which will harm the island’s reputation as a holiday destination, say experts.
Cyprus is expecting fewer tourists this year, so it needs to stay competitive with quality of service an all-important factor
UCLAN lecturer in Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fanos Tekelas said that while the island’s tourism is under pressure from competition from cheaper destinations such as Turkey and Egypt, tourists will not take a drop in services provided at hotels and restaurants lightheartedly.
“From observations and surveys conducted by myself and colleagues, we have identified a serious dip in services provided at tourist establishments, which has not yet been recorded as complaints,” said Tekelas.
He said a reported shortage of labour at hotels, especially in skilled staff, has contributed to the drop in standards as unskilled staff are called in to fill the gap they are not fit to do due to a lack of training.
Hotels and restaurants are using students, mainly from third countries, to meet their needs in staff.
Tekelas said these people are not skilled, and in some cases not trained, making them unfit for the job, as many of them do not know the basics in hospitality.
“A tourist will not care whether you are a rookie, waiting on tables for the first time and don’t know that you should pour wine from the right side of the client. They will care about the standard of service you are providing them with.”
Even if trained, the majority of students will not return the following year, which would mean that another set of rookies would need to be trained.
He argued that one of the main reasons, however, for the decline in services is that hotels are trying to offer more and more in a single package. The trend to offer ‘all inclusive’ packages to tourists means that staff at some of the biggest hotels will be busy serving customers around the clock.
“This means that while hoteliers are having trouble finding trained staff, a small group of people will be serving some 600-700 people. It’s humanly impossible to offer good services under these conditions.”
Tekelas said better services have been recorded in places like Limassol were upscale hotels have opted not to offer all-inclusive deals.
But he said that hotels cannot drop all-inclusive packages altogether as they would find themselves in a catch-22 situation.
“If hotels who have been offering all-inclusive plans were to drop their packages altogether, they would see a serious decline in the number of repeat tourists who have grown accustomed to all-inclusive services.”
He suggested that hotels reduce the number of all-inclusive deals gradually while investing in training their staff.
Hoteliers say the level of service in the tourism industry remains high but admit there are signs of fatigue beginning to show.
Akis Vavlitis, chairman of the Association of Cyprus Touristic Enterprises, told the Financial Mirror that any drop in the standards of services that may be recorded is directly linked to the fact that hoteliers are having a hard time in finding skilled staff.
“It is true that personnel at touristic enterprises appear to be tired and maybe offering lower than expected services. Unfortunately, this is a side-effect of the labour shortage experienced in the tourism industry,” said Vavlitis.
He said that hotels are having a hard time finding maids and cleaning staff as Cypriots are not interested in doing these jobs.
Hoteliers have put forward a request to the Ministry of Labour to allow them to employ students from third countries during the summer.
He said that there are some 22,000 students in Cyprus that could be interested in working during the summer months, acknowledging at the same time, that hiring students was only a temporary fix.
“The long-term solution would be for us to bring in staff from third countries,” said Vavlitis.
The Deputy Ministry of Tourism said it hasn’t received complaints from tourists about the standard of services. Although it is aware of issues caused by the seasonality of labourers.
“What we are doing is monitoring the sector so as to ensure that the high standard of services tourists visiting Cyprus are accustomed to will continue to be offered,” said Pantelis Ioannides, press officer for the Deputy Ministry of Tourism.
He added that the ministry is preparing a new regulatory framework for restaurants and other recreation enterprises active in the tourism industry.