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What happened to quality tourism?

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When the SeaDream super-yacht docked at the newly built Ayia Napa Marina, it should have heralded a new age in quality tourism, the likes we have not enjoyed for nearly three decades.

Premium holidaymakers stepped off the 55 luxury cabin vessel cruising in the eastern Mediterranean, some in Cyprus for the first time.

And if we’re lucky, they’ll return some day or tell their friends of the warm hospitality they received.

Instead, Cyprus authorities continue to focus their efforts on increasing the numbers of arrivals, desperate to reach the pre-Covid record of 4 mln tourists a year.

A figure we will fall short of even in full recovery, no thanks to the war on Ukraine and restrictions on Russians travelling abroad.

The junior ministry for tourism is acting more like an agent for hoteliers, trying to fill rooms, ignoring the greater benefit for the economy had we genuinely opted for quality.

Holiday experts such as Noel Josephides, former chairman of the association of independent tour operators (AITO), have been calling for this change for decades, with coastal roads only now seeing an improvement in pavements, a clean-up of old-town centres and a serious facelift of public transport.

Relying exclusively on major tour operators to sell seats and book cheap holidays may be desirable as long as the numbers are there.

Still, it’s going down a dangerous path, repeating the past mistakes of putting all our eggs in one basket.

This will result in a vicious circle, where arrivals will increase, but per capita spending will not budge.

It is not the cheap food that attracts millions to the Aegean islands, Antalya, and Sharm El Sheikh, nor the low-cost airfare. It is the package that includes all of this, plus value for money.

If a kebab is three times the price in Cyprus than in Egypt or Greece, it doesn’t mean it’s superior.

Quite the contrary, we get more bad reviews of long queues at airport check-ins, poor quality and expensive food, and taxi fares that might cost half the plane ticket.

The junior ministry also prided itself on spending a ‘major’ budget on digital marketing, not realising that it was trying to attract the younger holidaymakers who would end up in other destinations anyway.

Now that we have more marinas in the pipeline, four- and five-star beach resorts, and a growing number of restaurants and bar focusing on innovation and imagination, Cyprus needs a return to quality.

And by that, we need to go back to our traditional markets and attract good spenders, some of whom are return customers.

The secret five and ten-year plans should either be removed from mothballs and put to good use or just thrown in the bin and replaced by good old fashioned warm hospitality.

Vacationers want more information, transparency, and a sense of feeling genuinely welcomed.

Let’s not repeat past errors, especially in an election year, when politicians need to show a healthy recovery, ignoring the longer-term impact of short-term decisions.