The perfect Mediterranean getaways of Greece and Cyprus recorded historic figures for 2017, with 2018 set to follow suit. Natalie Hami reports.
Traditionally revered for its glistening beaches and warm hospitality, Cyprus’ tourism industry has come up in leaps and bounds following the economic crisis in 2013.
In fact, according to figures provided by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), its performance in 2017 broke a number of historical records.
“The number of tourist arrivals to Cyprus in 2017 was the highest ever, surpassing the 3.65 million mark and recording an increase of almost 15 per cent compared to 2016,” explained CTO officials. The officials noted that a healthy increase in tourists was brought forth by main tourist markets such as the UK (+8.3 per cent), Russia (+5.5 per cent), Germany (+52.2 per cent) and the Nordic countries (+17.6 per cent). In order to accommodate the rise in arrivals, there are currently 14 hotel units under construction across the island, which are set to contribute a further 3,000 beds.
Initial figures for 2018 also point to a healthy start, according to CEO, MTS Globe Cyprus and Mantovani Plotin Travel Ltd, Victor Mantovani, who said: “The initial trend of the actual reservations for 2018 confirms that this will be another excellent year for Cyprus.”
And while these dizzying figures clearly highlight its appeal as a tourist destination, TTG sought to uncover why Cyprus is worth more than just a one-off visit and how the destination is working towards creating repeat visitors.
CTO officials told TTG: “The reasons that visitors return to Cyprus are inherent. Inimitable hospitality, good value for money, unique nature, superb and well-organised beaches, the cleanest waters in Europe, high quality levels of the offered product, great weather, short distances, great gastronomy and a variety of activity and entertainment options.”
One of the island’s popular beachside towns, Larnaka, has witnessed a healthy frequency of repeat visitors over recent years, and in light of rising numbers, it has seen heavy hotel investment of late. Officer, Larnaka Tourism Board, Nana Asmeni Pavlou explained to TTG that visitors always claim they come back for the ‘friendly locals, excellent weather and historic charm of Larnaka’.
However, highlighting a more proactive approach to inspiring them to come back, she said: “[We have been] creating new and innovative initiatives on an annual basis to enrich the tourism product in order to turn Larnaka’s visitors into ‘Larnaka’s Loyal Friends’. Some recent examples include the creation of the ‘Rural Larnaka Traditional Gastronomy Route’, the ‘Larnaka Thematic Cycling Routes’, new events, and of course our ‘Larnaka Free Winter Experiences Programme’, which runs every year from November until April. This programme offers a jam-packed timetable with something different every day of the week for guests staying in Larnaka hotels, including guided tours, excursions in picturesque villages, halloumi making demonstrations, wine tasting, birdwatching and basket weaving sessions.”
Meanwhile, Louis Hotels – a hospitality expert offering four and five-star hotels in both Cyprus and Greece – believes that incentivising visitors comes down to a careful study of trends.
Chief sales and marketing officer, Louis Hotels, Popi Tanta said: “Visitors are keen on spending on recreation, gastronomy and authentic and local experiences. This is why we have already renovated all of our hotels and added more facilities, and this is why we have been hosting seven thematic nights per week at our hotels for a long time now. By creating a unique experience and proving the local authenticity, we turn our visitors into ambassadors of the Louis experience.”
Tanta also highlighted the importance of change in creating the ideal experience for guests.
“We do not believe that we have reached our upper limits. Thus, we design, implement and review a lot of actions in order to achieve higher client satisfaction.”
Echoing a similar sentiment was Mantovani, who noted that despite the high percentage of repeat guests, numbers must be further boosted.
“In order to achieve this, we all need to work on our touristic product, which does not include just the accommodation but also the restaurants, transport vehicles, airports, shops, bars, excursions and activities. Last but not least, we must make our tourists feel that they are welcome. We must never forget to smile and be polite. It costs absolutely nothing,” he said.
Greece’s tourism industry has been in the limelight so much in recent years, that the destination’s shortcomings seem well and truly part of its past.
This colourful destination, a hotbed of culture and history, peppered with delectable cuisine, welcomed positive figures throughout 2017 and is anticipating continuous tourism prowess this year.
According to figures released by the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), there was a 5.3 per cent rise in arrivals in December 2017 compared to the same month in 2016, with an overall increase of 8.6 per cent in arrivals between January and December 2017, compared to the same period in 2016.
Meanwhile, Greece’s largest carrier, Aegean Airlines, reported a strong start to the year, with a 12 per cent growth in passenger traffic for January and February 2018, having witnessed 1.5 million passengers on board its flights.
CEO, Aegean Airlines, Dimitris Gerogiannis said: “We continue to invest on the upgrade of our product and services, having delivered in the last few months of 2017 the upgraded facilities of our four lounges in Athens, Thessaloniki and Larnaca. At the same time, we are adding 18 new destinations and 700,000 additional seats in 2018. The initial indications as far as demand is concerned for the summer season appear positive, despite the increased capacity added by competition.”
Most importantly, the destination’s stakeholders are keen to ensure that tourism arrivals remain high by constantly enhancing the guest experience.
Vice president, Vedema & Mystique, Luxury Collection Resorts, Santorini, Kalia Konstantinidou explained to TTG how the upscale resorts provide guests with ‘their dream vacation’. “The key to achieving this is to never rest, but to continuously strive for great innovation, ethical contribution and continuous evolution of our offerings and services. This, of course, is made easier and is translated to benefits for the entire island, when it is the result of a cooperative effort of all hotels and hospitality outlets in Santorini.”
With a view to meeting and exceeding the expectations of discerning travellers, Konstantinidou explained that the resorts reflect on their operations, facilities and offerings in order to expand, evolve and ameliorate services.
She added: “This year, we invest money as well as time to renovate the hotels’ facilities, hire experienced staff and continuously train existing staff, in addition to choosing the top-rated suppliers to meet international luxury standards.”
Moving away from Greece’s sun-drenched islands to its culture-fuelled capital city, Athens, area general manager – Greece and Cyprus, Hilton Athens, Bart Van De Winkel spoke to TTG about keeping up with clients’ needs.
“Our guests appreciate the excellent quality that they receive in every aspect of their stay and reward it with loyalty and referrals. As tourism numbers rise, Hilton Athens keeps up to speed by adjusting its operational and sales strategy accordingly,” he said.
As Greece’s travel and tourism stakeholders gain confidence in their tourism product, they begin to cast their net wider, seeking feeder markets beyond European borders.
President, Belvedere Hotel Mykonos and Belvedere Villas, Nikolas Ioannidis explained to TTG that the property will be focusing on the US market, as well as Brazil and the UK. “We are also attracting guests from the UAE, Australia, Lebanon and a few European countries.”
Meanwhile, general manager, The Crete Golf Club, Nicholas Sotiropoulos will be working to attract guests from within Europe, mainly from Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and France.
“We are motivating our clients to visit us by providing special rates on Aegean flights, a high-quality airline, where golf clubs are carried free-of-charge and individuals are eligible for a promo code. Moreover, special rates on Hertz rentals are provided upon request.”
With keen perseverance and dedication, Greece and Cyprus continue to take pride in the creation of a quality tourism product.