Decades ago, an editorial columnist in the Cyprus Weekly used to write incessantly, “Let’s not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs”, referring primarily to tourism and, in a fortune-telling way, a lack of respect for the environment.
Many summers have passed and despite warnings from holiday specialists, the ‘visual pollution’ is still there, basic infrastructure is absent in many parts and, frankly, we seem to have lost our appetite for genuine hospitality.
The coronavirus crisis should have acted as a wake-up call, just as the first Gulf War, when in the early 1990s everything came to a halt, no flights or cruises, and our hotels were empty.
Then, as today, locals were urged to rescue the leisure industry, but little is being given in return for this loyalty.
Try to book a room at a (presently deserted) hotel and the rates are not too far off from any peak season.
Restaurants continue to overcharge, and trying to support local wineries has become daunting, considering that some eateries mark-up a wine bottle by a multiplier of three or four.
Perhaps, you should opt for restaurants that have a BYOB policy (bring your own bottle) or even, invite your friends over after an outing to enjoy a good Cypriot variety at affordable prices.
Most of Europe, troubled in recent years by the ‘overtourism’ phenomenon, is opting to ‘go local’, which means that Cyprus will continue to be deprived of a record number of arrivals, even though announcements by Wizz Air and Ryanair about future flights and using Cyprus as a hub, are most encouraging.
This is also a good opportunity for us to rethink the ‘quality’ factor and going green.
If we cannot lower our high labour costs, we should at least be able to compensate that by providing better services that holidaymakers will remember for a lifetime.
There are hundreds of places to visit, by foot and bicycle, or to photograph.
The explosion of colours, especially on an early Spring morning, compares with many other popular destinations.
Cyprus has amazing sunsets, in winter or summer, while the fragrances of wild herbs, fresh flowers or ripe fruit cannot be captured on any device.
You have to live it to enjoy it.
You have to taste it to savour it.
Cyprus is full of history and it’s not just about archaeology or statues.
The island’s diverse and multicultural past provides for living history, with many stories to be told.
In recent years, although oblivious to the rotten politics our leaders indulge in, younger generations are turning to the simpler things in life, a cleaner environment, caring for wildlife and a love for anything living, on two legs or four.
What used to be a joke, when pointing at tourists who would stop by the side of the highway to safely get a kitten across the road, is a way of life for many youths today.
What we do is part of our culture. Although education in Cyprus schools (and many homes) has a lot to be desired, it is this ‘civility’ that wins over foreign hearts and tourists who want to come back.
Let’s take advantage of what the lockdown imposed on us and turn a crisis into an opportunity, by fixing whatever is wrong with our tourist product, and bolstering whatever is good.