The Ministry of Tourism is putting everything into boosting the island’s seasonality to salvage what’s left of another coronavirus-battered year while laying the groundwork for a strong restart in 2022.
Encouraged by a recent uptick in bookings and flights for autumn, Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios is on tour in Europe to promote Cyprus.
Currently in Munich, after visiting Denmark earlier this week, Perdios told the Financial Mirror that Cyprus is counting on scheduled flights in the winter months as the uncertainty created by the Covid pandemic continues to discourage tour operators from chartering aircraft.
“We are here campaigning to encourage airlines to keep their connections with the island running and to convince tour operators to set up packages for Cyprus by buying seats on scheduled flights.
“On a second level, we are here to promote Cyprus to people who chose to book their holidays independently,” said the deputy minister.
He added that German tour operators have proven to be more sensitive when assuming risk, which authorities would like to take on with stakeholders in the country.
“Germany has never been one of our strongest markets.
“In 2019, we saw just over 150,000 German tourists arriving. Next year, we will definitely blow this number out of the water with all the work stakeholders have put in.
“This winter and perhaps until March, the main traveller traffic to Cyprus will be through scheduled flights and not chartered ones.
He argued the strategy is to keep interest in Cyprus alive, so it can be in a position to jump-start the tourism sector in early April, hoping to come close to pre-coronavirus record numbers.
“What is important is that it appears we maintain a large percentage of scheduled flights – mainly from EU countries.
“This means the winter advertising campaign is all the more important, and it entails spending more money compared with the summer when tour operators also contribute.”
Perdios noted that chartered flights from Britain, the island’s biggest market, were few, while its second-biggest market, Russia, never opened to chartered flights.
“It is important to maintain visibility in the winter, to continue to build on the trend that began to develop in the summer”.
All systems go
Perdios said 2022 would see the ministry going all out to boost arrivals close to 2019’s record 3.96 million arrivals.
“In the first nine months of the year, we saw 40% of arrivals compared to the record 2019, despite August reaching an impressive, under the circumstances, 65%.
“We can’t complain, under the circumstances. However, we knew 2021 was not going to be the year in which tourism restarted.”
Perdios said campaigning to keep existing connectivity alive is just one of two prongs of the ministry’s strategy.
Its campaign for the coming winter months and 2022 will focus on adding more destinations to and from the island.
Perdios said that the pandemic forced the island to seek out arrivals from new markets.
As a result, Cyprus has seen arrivals from countries that did not have direct flights before, such as Ukraine, Poland, France, Italy, and Hungary.
He added that the ministry’s campaign would be stepped up in these countries, especially France, Italy, and Saudi Arabia, an entirely new market.
Perdios also said that Cyprus has also seen a change in the profile of tourists arriving.
“There is a growing trend of tourists choosing to book their own holidays, buying tickets and accommodation from websites on the net.”
These tourists tend to spend more while on the island, as they feel they have saved money by organising their trip.
“In 2019, each tourist spent on average €615, while in June this year, each tourist spent an average of €760.”
Big budget, bigger campaigns
Perdios told the Financial Mirror the ministry is feeling quite comfortable with the budget allocated, noting that 2022’s budget will increase from €47 to €53 mln.
Soon the ministry is expected to spend around half a million euros per month on digital marketing.
The goal is for Cyprus to be digitally displayed throughout the year. Therefore, the budget for digital marketing will increase to €5 mln in 2022, from €3 mln provided in this year’s budget.
One of the items ticked off in Munich was to meet with online bloggers and social media influencers to promote Cyprus as an all-year-round destination, adding a new element to its digital campaign.
Cyprus is working to increase the island’s seasonality by introducing new products such as biking and hiking holiday packages and making the most of local history.
“One such project is ‘The Heartland of Legends’, which draws inspiration from the rich cultural heritage of our island and aims at the further tourist development of the countryside, mountainous and remote areas.”
It concerns the creation of a central, circular route and some individual thematic routes, which pass entirely through these areas and offer authentic experiences to visitors, bringing them closer to Cypriot nature, Cypriot tradition, and the way of life of the Cypriots.
“Although they could not make up for the income loss from coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions, Cypriot tourists did keep the industry’s engines going.”
The state-sponsored staycation scheme for Cypriots will be returning in some form in 2022.
Perdios will take his campaign to the United Arab Emirates, the UK, Poland and Ukraine before the year ends.