So, the good news for the 2023 tourist season is that it is close to overtaking the 2019 record in terms of foreign tourist arrivals.
The arrivals at our airports, and the various announcements of hoteliers and the Deputy Ministry of Tourism confirm the numbers.
Focusing on the Famagusta area, the announcements refer to an increase in the number of tourists by about 34% and an increase in tourism revenue of 30% compared to the previous year.
And yet, talking to restaurateurs and other hospitality centres, we see a drop in the number of tourists visiting these places. So where do tourists go?
I think the main reason is the all-inclusive package holidays, i.e., tourists with wristbands, who, in addition to being provided with free food, also include free drinks, even of lower quality, to the point of consumption “until they burst”, according to information by two hoteliers.
Also, an unspecified but considerable number of tourists end up in the occupied areas.
Another percentage ends up with Airbnb-style units (legal or not) that don’t contribute to local businesses or taxes.
The defamation of the area due to criminal activities – such as the second rape case of a British woman, the beating of a Turkish Cypriot woman – may frighten tourists for out-of-hotel visitors.
The overcharging, mainly by taxis, and the restriction on the time, schedules, and networks of public buses are additional elements that discourage.
Of the foreign tourists in the Famagusta area, it is a question of whether 50% remain in the area, trapping them (due to public transport) in their place of stay (“Our trip to Cyprus for seven days cost us €300/person and the transport cost alone was €100/person” – statement of an Italian tourist in the Cavo Maris area).
Fortunately, there is also domestic tourism, independent of public transport.
The “delivery” system that facilitates the tourist’s stay in the accommodation unit does not help in catering or local food establishments, restaurants, or tavernas.
In addition to entertainment outlets that don’t know how to work, others have the potential for success, but with several units presenting a depressing commercial picture, the potential for success is also affected.
Ayia Napa and Protaras have been seriously affected (the worst) by the departure of Russian tourists, which is difficult to replenish (a 70% reduction by Russians in the post-Ukraine war embargo era).
This unequal distribution of tourist clientele also causes various problems that need attention from newcomers to the entertainment business despite their support from the local municipal authorities, while there is a major cover-up, such as an illegal club in Protaras that in three days obtained a license from both the municipal authorities and by the Deputy Ministry of Tourism, whereas for others it could take months.
So, there is confusion among tourists about where to go for recreation, with so much conflicting data and online reviews that affect the real estate market since the whole picture presented is not the best.
It is worthwhile to try a more in-depth study of this phenomenon, partly caused by the increase in individual tourists beyond group packages.
Because of this, it takes additional time to acquire commercial goodwill, which is needed.
As a result, newcomers to the local entertainment business may need more funds to cope with the initial period of operation, building up a reputation through platforms such as Trip Advisor and other online media that are also a source of clientele, but it takes time.
By Antonis Loizos F.R.I.C.S. – Antonis Loizou & Associates Ltd – Property Appraisers, Property Sellers & Development Project Managers