Mangled message on tourism

4 mins read

The tourism sector has, over the decades, been considered the jewel of Cyprus, but it is often neglected, not given the necessary attention for spending, marketing and infrastructure.

That is probably why confusion rules when promoting the island as a holiday destination, not giving clear health and safety signals, especially seeming directionless amid the Covid-pandemic.

Tour operators are disappointed by the lack of proper timeframes and have opted to send their tourists to other shores.

Instead of being revered and treated as the driving force of the entire economy, the hospitality sector remains a runner-up in securing state funds, disproportional to the earnings it generates, directly or indirectly.

For all politicians, who can stitch and sew the annual government budget to suit any future election prospects, the tourism sector is perceived as lovely hotels, serving good food and excellent coffee for business meetings, and an industry where employees are seen as potential voters.

True, we have often said the Cyprus economic model should not put all its eggs in one basket.

But that does not mean depriving our most valuable asset of opportunities to grow, excel and differentiate from other rival destinations.

We are often light-years behind others, such as Greece, Malta, Turkey, and Egypt.

It is a sector that should have diversified to suit the needs from the budget traveller to the luxury holidaymaker.

Blending cheap street food with high-end gourmet gastronomy while travelling around the island on foot or a bicycle, all the way up to flashy sports cars.

Tourism should be constant when providing economic, social, and political stability.

Just as the environment must be protected at all cost as it incorporates everything around us, so should the tourism sector.

And not just by giving handouts to hoteliers or bailing out airlines.

For years, specialist tour operators have told us to get rid of the neon signs, improve service at restaurants and fix the thousands of potholes around the island.

Few have adapted and are considered pioneers in what they do and how they market themselves.

But with the Deputy Tourism Ministry and its predecessor, the CTO, receiving a paltry budget, how can you advertise on a shoestring budget?

Tourism is beyond politics and ideologies, and everyone must contribute to make it a better product.

The political parties and government that adore appointing committees to secure more seats for friends and relatives do not have in-house tourism commissioners or experts.

The same could also apply to lack of expertise on energy, innovation or even geopolitics, which frequently explains why we lack decision-making and are suffice with following the trend instead of leading it.

Cyprus and Cypriots have great attributes, but instead of celebrating advantages, it seems safe to cultivate the next generation of robots.

In the absence of real leadership and visionary politicians, perhaps captains of the tourism industry ought to get together and take matters forward, just as the shipping world did.

Taking ‘strategic plans’ out of the cupboard and customising them as and when we like is not the solution.

Implementing a bold, forward-thinking strategy is.