With nearly one in five euros generated from the travel and tourism sectors, Cyprus is embarking on a general makeover, as well as an aggressive campaign to promote the island as a quality destination.
With tourist arrivals falling by 85% from the previous year because of the pandemic, Savvas Perdios, the junior minister for tourism, said: “2020 was a tragic year for Cyprus tourism.”
“The first half of 2021 will be especially difficult for everyone.”
Airlines halted almost all flights, many hotels remained shut throughout two lockdowns and hospitality has come to a standstill, suspending thousands of workers in a sector that contributed 20-23% of GDP in recent years and accommodated a record 3.5-4 mln tourists per season.
But this downtime has been utilised to reform the tourism industry’s legal framework and revise outdated practices and regulations, some of which are 40 years old.
Briefing journalists on prospects for the current year and beyond, Perdios said that as of March 1, Cyprus will open up to 56 markets.
To do this, the Deputy Ministry of Tourism will deploy its biggest digital campaign ever costing €3-4 mln amid a general promotion budget of €20 mln.
Apart from the traditional markets of the U.K., Russia and Israel, that account for a combined 65% of all pre-Covid arrivals, the ministry is pro-actively reaching out to new markets.
These include France, with direct flights from Paris after a long absence, as well as “individual tourism” from Scandinavia, previously served only by tour operators.
“We will also target Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania, as well as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, among many others, while the arrival of WizzAir with a Larnaca hub of three aircraft operating to 15 new destinations is a great feather in our cap,” said Perdios.
Vaccinated or not
He said Cyprus will open up to all visitors, whether they are vaccinated or not, as long as tourists are tested upon arrival at Larnaca and Paphos airports.
This is a process that should take no more than 20-30 minutes, “almost as long as one waits for their luggage to arrive”.
Perdios admitted the congestion in recent summers at Paphos airport in particular, with limited passport control counters, “was not great”, but was confident that through cooperation with the Ministry of Transport, airports operator Hermes and health service this will be overcome.
The ministry is introducing a host of incentives for foreign tour companies, as well as grants and subsidies for local communities and businesses to promote the uniqueness of Cyprus.
“Our aim is not to advertise our beaches and hotels. This is already being done by our international partners such as airlines and tour companies.
“We want to promote specialist holidays in the longer term, such as conferences, culture, food and wine, and sports.
“We also welcome foreign teams to choose Cyprus for their training and are setting up more cycling centres, while we are also introducing special schemes for diving.
“We already have 60 diving sites and we are looking to explore virgin territories, such as the sea off the scenic Pyrgos Tylliria area with crystal-clear waters.”
Perdios said the biggest tourism facelift is engaging with rural communities and focusing on quality activities.
“Last year, despite the Covid-restrictions, we managed to visit 170 communities in cooperation with the Forestry Department and the Commissioner for Rural Development.
“By summer, we hope to have visited a total of 250 to identify the unique features of each community and celebrate them.”
Novelties include the Street Food Festival to celebrate local gastronomy, possibly in September, to be held in the Laona area, the heartland of the Cyprus wine country.
Other concepts include a ‘Christmas Village’ for six weeks, similar to Winter Wonderlands in Germany and central Europe, enhancing the ‘Wine Routes’ to include wine bars and other outlets, the ‘Aphrodite Culture’ route, as well as headline sports events.
A major success amid the pandemic restrictions was hosting the PGA Aphrodite Hills golf tournament last year, to be held in China and was cancelled.
“We got tremendous exposure to about 500 mln TV viewers,” Perdios said, making it the biggest high-profile sports event ever to take place in Cyprus.
The minister said that an environmental impact study will get underway over the next few months that will determine how all the plan of actions are implemented.
He said that 10 key areas of activity will now be certified to set standards and ensure a high quality of service is maintained throughout.
- Cyprus Breakfast & Brunch
- ‘Taste Cyprus’ delightful journeys
- ‘Blue Flag’ for clean beaches and public access facilities
- Troodos Geopark that will be promoted “soon”
- Authentic Experiences’ route of some 300 km celebrating local handicraft and local produce
- Wine Routes
- Cyprus Nature Trails, the promotion of eco-sites
- Les vignobles de la Grande Commanderie” to celebrate Commandaria, the oldest sweet wine in the world
- Colourful Villages to promote the brightest and cleanest public image
“Undoubtedly, we get a lot of complaints about this, but is the responsibility of all of us to project a good image.”
Perdios agreed that the capital remains neglected and only attracts one or two-night stayovers.
“Nicosia has a lot to celebrate and we are talking about it with the Nicosia Tourism Promotion Board.”
He also announced new packages to encourage investments in rural areas, such as grants of up to €20,000 for projects that will enhance services within communities.
The domestic tourism package will continue to encourage locals to go on ‘short breaks’ that so far benefitted from a 25% state subsidy of the cost for a room and breakfast, with a cap set at €60.
Realising the current scheme has only been approved for short stays up to the end of March, Perdios said he will be appealing to the Cabinet to extend the scheme to May and increase the subsidy to 35% of the cost.
He said funding has been approved by the European Commission and falls under the rural development programmes for the refurbishment of hotels and other accommodation, grants to finance business costs, subsidies for traditional catering and the sale of local produce, and aid to improving the aesthetic upgrade of communities.