Cyprus confident of breaking tourism record

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The Deputy Ministry of Tourism is confident Cyprus will break its record in 2019 for annual tourist arrivals which are expected to exceed last year’s 3.9 million.

Cyprus annual tourist arrivals spiked 7.8% in 2018 to a record 3.93 million as revenue touched a historic high of €2.71 bln.

Despite initial estimates that tourism was in for a rough year, following the closure of some airlines and UK tour operator giant Thomas Cook, the numbers look positive.

Figures were given a boost by a new 11-month record for tourist arrivals set in November reaching 3.86 mln boosted by an influx of British, Russian and Israeli tourists.

This suggests that Cyprus could smash a new annual tourism record by breaking the 4 million mark, something that seemed unlikely at the start of 2019, especially after the collapse in September of tour giant Thomas Cook.

According to Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios, thanks to the collective efforts of industry stakeholders, Cyprus is to set a new record for tourist arrivals.

At the beginning of 2019, the ministry said it would be happy to come close to last year’s arrival figures.

Perdios was looking back at the inauguration of the Deputy Ministry this year while laying out plans for the year ahead in an interview with CyBC’s radio.

He said 2019 got off to a bad start, as authorities had to deal with the impact from the previous year which saw the closure of airlines like Cobalt and Air Berlin.

The minister said that stakeholders had to deal with the demise of Germania, another German airliner and the collapse of giant tour operator Thomas Cook on which a large number of Cypriot hotels relied solely on.

“If this was not enough, we had the uncertainty in the UK market generated by Brexit, the turbulence of the Russian Rouble, and the emergence of competition from Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt,” said Perdios.

He added that with this in mind, the year can be considered a success despite, as he noted, a small decrease in money spent on the island by tourists.

These were the prevailing conditions when the Deputy Ministry of Tourism took on the role of planning and implementing the country’s tourism strategy, essentially taking over from the Cyprus Tourism Organisation.

Perdios said the Ministry is putting together a 10-year strategic roadmap the country will follow from 2020, which is to be presented on 8 January before the cabinet.

“What has changed in contrast to what happened in the past, is that all plans regarding tourism are now written down in one document, in the form of a strategic plan,” said Perdios.

Prospects for 2020

Commenting on what’s on the cards for 2020, Perdios said that he expects to see a stabilisation, noting that there will be much more clarity next year.

“There will no longer be uncertainty over issues such as Brexit. To what extent we will be affected by Britain’s exit from Europe will be tied to fluctuations in the exchange rate. At the moment we do not see any differentiation.”

Cyprus also aims to open up markets in France, Belgium, Holland and Scandinavian countries.

Perdios said that stakeholders have moved fast and closed the gap in seats created by the collapse of Thomas Cook, further stabilising the UK market.

The Deputy Ministry will also avoid putting all its eggs into one or two baskets, noting that the UK and Russian markets have reached their saturation point.

“That is why you are often hearing us talk about dynamically entering new markets.”

Perdios said that German flights lost after the demise of Germania will be replaced by Condor Air who will be adding 10 routes to Germany from Paphos, following an agreement with Hermes Airports.

He added that in the next couple of years flights from neighbouring Israel will increase significantly.

The Deputy Ministry of Tourism in an effort to diversify the island’s tourist product aims to put Cyprus back on the cruise map.

With the glory days of cruise ships buried somewhere in the 1990s, as cheaper airfares and conflicts in the region put a strain on the sector, the DMT is now hoping to revive it by attracting more cruise ship operators to use Cyprus as a home port or a port of call.

“We had double cruise arrivals compared to 2018 when 30 cruise ships had called or departed from a Cypriot port. Next year some 100 cruise ships are to make calls at a Cypriot port while planning for 2021 is already underway,” said Perdios.

Cyprus is working closely with Israeli authorities to promote the Eastern Mediterranean as a cruising option.

The Deputy Minister said that there is an increasing interest for cruising in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea as competition in the Western Mediterranean has risen to unprecedented levels.

He noted that cruise companies are eyeing the Eastern part of the Mediterranean as an investment opportunity.

Stressing the importance of diversifying Cyprus’ tourist product, Perdios said that the DPM aims to better organise campaigns so they reach various target groups.

“We are not just talking about target groups based on nationalities. We are also targeting specific age groups within each nationality. We will no longer be designing just one package for all,” said Perdios.