As tourism competition in the region continues to rise, Cyprus explores new avenues to develop its impressive product. Natalie Hami reports.
Strategically placed in the farthest corner of the enticing waters of the Mediterranean sea, forever known as the cross roads connecting East and West, the island of Cyprus has always presented an appealing and unique tourism product to a diverse range of visitors, stopping by to bask in its culture, heritage, sun and gastronomy. Each city calls out to visitors to experience what it has become known for, be it an array of museums, serene nature walks or its unrivalled beaches.
However, despite being a snapshot of sun, sea and sand, thus magnetising travellers for this express reason, with increased competition from particular destinations in the area, Cyprus is having to rethink its approach to tourism. Business development director, St Raphael Resort, Limassol, Farah Shammas expressed this perfectly to TTG: “Cyprus is not just a destination for sun, sea and sand seekers. There is so much on offer throughout the year, starting with the 10,000 years of history oozing from every corner of the island. Anywhere you look, there are ancient and more recent historical monuments and beautiful areas to explore.”
AHEAD OF THE GAME
With this in mind the island’s official tourism body, Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), explained to TTG that one of its aims is to lengthen the tourist season, as well as define thematic niches such as sports, cultural, conference and medical tourism.
According to CTO, the conference and incentive industry constitutes a strategic priority for the country’s tourist development, given that Cyprus can be an ideal destination for this purpose. The CTO has recently established the Cyprus Convention Bureau which operates within the organisation. CTO further explained that health tourism is another promising market for Cyprus, as well as sports tourism, since Cyprus is considered ideal for training due to its mild and sunny winters.
And indeed as the island’s tourism body acknowledges the acute need to diversify in today’s tourism market, Cyprus’ hospitality sector is more than ready to follow suit.
General manager – sales and marketing, Louis Hotels, Popi Tanta Demetriou exclusively commented to TTG: “We need to provide a variety of options during the low season to groups and conferences, incentive business and sports and golf tourism. Our island’s excellent infrastructure and attractive low season prices can also establish Cyprus as a long weekend destination for neighbouring countries.”
Describing today’s competition during the low and shoulder seasons as ‘fierce’, business development manager, Kanika Hotels, Spyros Michaelides told TTG: “Today, it has become more important than ever to highlight the rich history, culture, gastronomy and cosmopolitan face of Cyprus in order to also attract special interest tourism.”
He noted that the company’s hotels, Elias Beach Hotel and Alexander the Great, both offer a winter holiday experience. Michaelides also stated that in the past four years over $44 million has been in-vested to maintain the company’s hotels.
One particular project that has steadily been gaining momentum as part of Cyprus’ tourism appeal is the Limassol Marina. Marketing and PR man-ager, Limassol Marina, Sophia Paraskeva explained to TTG the precise goals of this developing project.
“This development actually came to fruition with a clear goal to improve our tour-ism, the tourist product, attract investors, boost the economy and local businesses, as well as to place Cyprus on the nautical yachting map.”
Limassol Marina is a new integrated master-plan development combining luxury residences and a superyacht marina including dining and shopping facilities in the heart of Limassol.
And as the island takes stock of its product, how it can ameliorate as well as build on it, stakeholders are increasing their efforts to entice new markets, including those of the Middle East. Only recently at the Annual Hotel Conference organised by the Pancyprian Association of Hoteliers, Cyprus’ Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said that there are positive signs from markets such as those of the UK, Germany, central Europe and the GCC.
Links with the Middle East have also been boosted of late via network expansion from the likes of Gulf Air, with its recent Kuwait-Larnaca and Bahrain-Larnaca flights. This flurry of activity in the region has also been seconded by the island’s stakeholders, looking to explore markets such as the Middle East.
Demetriou noted: “We will retain feeder markets such as the UK, Russia and Scandinavia while efforts continue to attract more tourists from Germany. Of course, the Middle East markets are part of our international expansion strategy and participation in major tourist exhibitions are scheduled within the following months.”
This sentiment was echoed by Shammas who said: “Our neighbours in the MENA region have always and will always be important to us, and we hope to encourage them to holiday in Cyprus for longer.”
One Cypriot company in particular claimed to be one step ahead of the game in forming connections with the Middle East. CEO, commercial, Q4 Aviation Solutions, Antonis Theodorides told TTG: “We are already one step ahead of these markets as well as the Far East by organising a strong network of affiliates focusing on promoting Cyprus as a multiple destination [to these markets].”
Regarding market diversity, general man-ager, Londa Beach Hotel, Limassol, Joachen Niemann told TTG that the property welcomes quite a mix, ranging from locals to the UK and Russian markets. However, he did comment that the Middle East market would be an interesting one, but believes that Cyprus will attract expats from MENA more than locals.
Eager to stay in the game and prove its island-appeal, Cyprus continues to identify its strengths, with an aim to bring them to the fore.