Determination goes a long way it seems, as 2016 proves fruitful for both Greece and Cyprus. Natalie Hami reports on the sunshine havens.
Rising from the ashes of an economic crisis that hit just a few years earlier, Cyprus’ tourism sector not only recovered in 2016 but broke tourism figure records.
Tourism has long-since been an integral source of revenue, and looking ahead to 2017, industry officials remain confident but well-aware of the steps that must be taken in order to keep the momentum and subsequent success going.
According to acting director general, Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), Marinos Menelaou, 2016 was an all-time historic high, with arrivals reaching 3.2 million.
“It was a record year for revenue too, with an 11.9 per cent increase compared to the previous year. Regarding the prospects for this year, we expect 2017 to be another excellent year.
“We expect to consolidate the 2016 figures. We’re optimistic and we’ve based this on our contacts with the travel trade.”
Menelaou noted that CTO has also taken part in ITB Berlin and MITT in Russia this year, to raise awareness of the country’s eclectic tourism offering.
This year also saw the launch of Paphos 2017 European Capital of Culture and its impressive programme of events. Considered an honour for the coastal city, the programme aims to reinforce Paphos’ position on the European cultural map.
Boasting idyllic weather almost the whole year round, it seems only natural that visitors would flock to this Mediterranean island both during peak seasons as well as the shoulder and winter months. However, tourism officials explained to TTG that this particularly lucrative area of tourism has yet to be fully realised.
Menelaou remarked: “During the summer months we have no problem filling the beds for that period. There is a saturation period though and our aim is to filter this demand into the shoulder and winter months.”
He further underlined that all of the CTO’s promotion work goes into highlighting Cyprus’ attributes during the shoulder and winter months. “For example football teams can come during the winter and train; we also have biking routes. CTO’s efforts and budget is going towards developing special interest tourism,” he added.
Cultivating the island’s tourism potential during the winter months was also elucidated on by general manager – travel, G.A.P. Vassilopoulos Group, Demetris Constantinides. Highlighting that the season must be extended, he said: “One of the great challenges we will all face if the stars continue to align and the arrivals continue to soar, is the limited capacity of our accommodation establishments during the high season. The hotels and apartments are all full in the six summer months (May to October), when 80 per cent of the total arrivals occur. During the other six months, we receive only 20 per cent of the yearly volume.
“We should take advantage of our mild winter and the warm winter sea. We should promote Cyprus as a winter destination to countries with a cold climate, such as Russia, Scandinavia, the Baltic countries and Northern Europe.”
He added: “We should create interesting activities and experiences that will be attractive to residents of cold countries.”
Meanwhile, in the buzzing city of Limassol, managing director, St Raphael Resort, Farah Shammas noted that even during the so-called winter season, the sun is still out, therefore presenting a great opportunity for site-seeing, excursions, group activities, business meetings and much more at very attractive prices and board rates.
Reiterating Menelaou’s comment regarding the over-saturation of the summer period, Shammas explained that an additional challenge over the summer months is the very high demand, which has to be managed effectively.
Despite Cyprus gaining the reputation as a hotspot for leisure tourists, the island’s conference and incentive sector has also grown from strength to strength. However, even this particular industry comes with its own set of challenges, according to managing director, Drakos DMC, Orestis Aristides, who cited under-capacity as one of the main problems during the summer months.
“With the government’s extension of building permits for new and existing hotels, Cyprus can expand its capacity to hold up to four to five million arrivals over the next 10 years. The challenge, of course, will be not only to increase quantity but to increase quality.”
During the coming years, Cyprus’ shores will be graced with a number of new hotels including Park Lane, a Luxury Collection Resort and Spa, Limassol, and Radisson Blu Conference and Airport Hotel, Larnaca, among others.
Moving on to yet another sunshine paradise, Greece’s tourism continues to play a very vital role in the country’s economic road to recovery, with the prospects for 2017 looking equally optimistic, according to president, Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), Andreas Andreadis.
During ITB Berlin recently, Andreadis conveyed: “Taking into account data received during ITB, plans for the addition of 1.5 million seats for 2017, for new markets as well as traditional ones, SETE predicts that for 2017 international arrivals may reach 26 million up from 24.8 million in 2016.”
Despite an overall feeling of confidence, some industry stakeholders tend to remain equally cautious. CEO, Chnaris Hotel Management, Development & Consulting S.A. and CHC Hotels, Zacharias Chnaris explained to TTG that the continued success of the tourism industry is one of complexity.
“I believe that service quality, value for money and destination infrastructure are the keys to continued success. This success can only be long-term if the tourism industry is based on sustainable tourism practices that promote the local culture, products and the natural environment, minimising the negative impacts on the destination caused by the large number of visitors.”
He noted that the destination’s strong performance refers to tourism arrivals as opposed to the profitability of tourism businesses, claiming that this has proved problematic due to austerity measures.
KEEPING THE FAITH
In a bid to find out how this determined nation is striving to continue to ride its wave of tourism success, TTG spoke to an array of industry stakeholders keen to share their future strategy.
Looking to place Athens firmly on the map of foreign conference organisers and tour operators, area general manager Greece & Cyprus, Hilton Athens, Bart van de Winkel told TTG that the property’s main focus for 2017 is to improve Athens’ image and promote it as a ‘friendly and pleasant city to visit for business or leisure’.
He added: “Greece is an ideal location to hold an incentive meeting as it makes available a business-orientated environment in conjunction with culture and entertainment. As we are in the process of launching more and more offers and discounts, our product is becoming even more accessible. All you have to do is visit our websites and social media channels, and stay informed on all the amazing things that take place at Hilton Athens.”
The five-star property has also recently introduced its ‘Meet with Purpose’ campaign, enabling meeting professionals to reduce waste and incorporate health and wellness into meetings and events.
Seeking to constantly enhance its offering, Grecotel Hotels & Resorts’ core objective is to increase demand and upgrade the quality of the company’s tourism product and services at all levels.
According to the group’s regional sales director, Alexandra Mallosi, this includes prolonging the tourist period throughout Greece, promoting the country’s international appeal as a safe and attractive tourist destination, increasing the number of foreign visitors and reinforcing domestic tourism.
When it comes to promoting its properties, Grecotel has been actively engaging on all social media platforms.“ TripAdvisor in particular has had a wide-reaching effect on the industry and many of Grecotel’s properties are ranked as top destinations. In fact, Grecotel won Gold at the 2015 Social Media Awards for its excellent use of Twitter in November 2016,” said Mallosi.
Highlighting the importance of these platforms, she stated: “Social media plays a significant role in many aspects of tourism, especially for would-be travellers searching for information on destinations. Social media therefore affects their decision-making behaviour.”
Spurred onwards, Greece and Cyprus are making savvy decisions to ensure a bright tourism future.