Cyprus’ tourism is confident of building on this year’s healthy 175% increase in arrivals compared to a dismal 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic brought the industry to its knees.
Presenting the work of his ministry this year, Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said that stakeholders are targeting a rebound by 2024.
He said the Mediterranean island recorded around 1.7 million arrivals between January and October, 54% fewer than in a record-setting 2019.
In the same pre-coronavirus 2019, the island had 3.7 million arrivals.
“Unlike other years, arrivals noticeably increased this fall instead of dropping off in September.
“In 2021, there was a continuous increase with October arrivals amounting to about 392,000 compared to 339,000 in September 2021 and 322,000 in August 2021,” said Perdios.
He added that arrivals in October were only 10% less than those recorded in October 2019.
“Preliminary results show that November has actually outperformed 2019.”
Tourism revenue between January and September reached over €1 bln, more than three times the amount for the same period last year but a 53% drop from 2019.
Compared to the dismal revenue of €299 mln in the same period last year, 2021 revenues increased by 250%.
The data also show that from January – September, compared to the same period of 2019, the monthly percentage reductions in tourist revenue were smaller than the reductions in arrivals, which indicates an increased average expenditure of tourists.
“During the first nine months of 2021, the average traveller visiting Cyprus spent €804 compared to €685 per traveller for January – September 2019, recording an increase of about 17%.”
Perdios said tourism directly accounts for 13% of Cyprus GDP, and the steep drop in revenue during the pandemic hit the country hard.
“Including the businesses that benefit from tourism, the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP shoots up to 20%”.
He said the pandemic had accelerated the national strategy for tourism, giving the island an edge over competitors.
“The pandemic has essentially forced us to crump a ten-year strategic plan into just under two years.
“In order to save what we could of this year’s season, we were all pushed to accelerate plans to extend the island’s seasonality.”
One of the reasons behind the improved performance was that Cyprus was forced to open up to new markets in the absence of tourists from its traditional sources.
While British and Russian tourists were not allowed to travel until almost the end of summer, Cyprus was forced to seek connectivity with 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.
New markets will focus on Cyprus’ €5 mln digital campaign.
“To penetrate fresh markets, one must be prepared to spend more on campaigns than is needed in already established markets.”
Perdios spoke of other forms of tourism such as cruise tourism and the fact that Royal Caribbean used Cyprus as its home port.
The decision by Royal Caribbean, the world’s second-largest cruise line operator, to use Cyprus as a home port significantly helped tourism this year.
The company is expected to keep Cyprus as a homeport for the next few years.
To broaden the country’s appeal beyond the staple sun and sea that have drawn tourists for decades, authorities are looking to add major sports events on the calendar and winery tours in areas of the millennia-old history of making wine.
L’ Etape Cyprus by Tour de France will be taking place for the next three years.
The first race is on 13 November 2022 and will be part of a series of races by the Tour de France organisers, which take place around the world.
Cyprus has also not abandoned its agenda to become a golfing destination, despite COVID restrictions.
After holding a successful PGA European Golf Tour tour in November last year, Cyprus has convinced the organisers, now rebranded DP World Tour, to include the island in their calendars for the next three years.
“Cyprus is more than just sun and sea.
“We have to embrace this and reflect it in our campaigns if we want to convey the message to international markets that our island is an all-year-round destination.”
This is at the heart of a multi-level campaign, including a newly introduced logo that can be used in special promotions, such as sports events, culture, or gastronomy.
Perdios said that the island was honoured to hold the European Championship for Sommeliers earlier this year.
Authorities are cautiously optimistic, although the pandemic has proven to be unpredictable.
The arrival of Omicron, the latest variant, has spread fears of a revival of travel restrictions.
“We are quite confident that the coronavirus pandemic will not be causing the havoc it did in previous years, at least not in our country.”
Perdios does not expect to see the same restrictions on travel as those imposed in early 2021…” when we were waiting for people to get vaccinated”.
“We expect that with booster shots being rolled out across the globe, restrictions will, at least, not be as tight as the beginning of this year.
“We are also confident that if we act swiftly, preparing the necessary protocols, as we did last year, we will not be facing particular problems.”