Destination Greece & Cyprus

Greece and Cyprus

Emboldened by flourishing visitor numbers, and driven by an iron will to be classed among Europe’s top-tier destinations, Greece and Cyprus are using their intuition to streamline their tourism sectors. Aleksandra Wood writes.

Greece and Cyprus are fully-equipped to woo global travellers with their incomparable glistening shorelines, year-round warmth, historic sites dating back to the fifth century B.C. and a world-recognised reputation for exceptional hospitality.

The culture-infused destinations have been fondly reflecting on the fruits of their labour following a successful touristic year, with statistics indicative of ever-positive results.

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“2018 was a fruitful year for Louis Hotels, both in Greece and Cyprus, with very high occupancy levels, namely in the latter nation,” explained chief of sales and marketing, Louis Hotels, Popi Tanta.

She continued: “The tourism industries in Greece and Cyprus have followed a growth trend since 2015, not only in terms of the number of arrivals but also in terms of the quality and variety of the attractions and services on offer.

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

According to data released by the Cyprus Tourism Organization, the number of arrivals from January to December 2018 reached 3,938,625, representing a total increase of 7.8 per cent in comparison to the previous year. The UK maintained its position as the top market for the year with 1,27,805 arrivals, followed by Russia with 783,631 arrivals and Germany with 189,200 arrivals.

“Some of the [nation’s] strongest points during 2018 included the stable political situation, the continuous renovations by hotel owners to improve their services, the record number of travellers arriving at the Larnaca and Paphos airports – reaching more than 10 million, and the high-end technological advances that allow travellers to utilise online websites and applications to make their holiday arrangements safely and quickly,” general manager, Aeolos Cyprus Travel, Yiannis Tappouras told TTG.

The wave of positive touristic inflow, much to hoteliers’ delight, has resulted in an influx of arrivals from the MENA region. Countries such as Jordan brought forth a staggering 77.6 per cent boost in 2018 compared to the previous year, with 15,250 travellers arriving on the country’s shores. Kuwait followed with a no less impressive increase of 32.8 per cent in arrivals, while Lebanon remained a loyal market with a 6.8 per cent rise in visitor numbers.

Tappouras opined: “Important partnerships with leading travel agencies and airlines helped to increase arrivals from the MENA markets to Cyprus. Due to the country’s geographical location, travellers from the MENA region are only three-four hours away.

“It is pivotal that we find ways to make this market grow even more, as it could add great value to the country’s economy,” he added.

Meanwhile, highlighting an unfaltering dedication to the MENA market, Louis Hotels’ Tanta stated: “We are taking specific actions to entice this market, such as online and offline advertising campaigns, taking part in trade exhibitions, as well as making use of the latest technology with webinars for agents.”

And just north of this beautiful island, Greece is breaking some touristic records itself, having welcomed 33 million arrivals in 2018 at its airports and on its cruise vessels, according to research conducted by Fraport.

The leading provider of airport services and traffic figures revealed that during the month of December, Thessaloniki Airport recorded 130,277 passenger arrivals – a 43 per cent rise on 2017 – while Athens International Airport witnessed a 20.6 per cent increase to 279,785 passenger arrivals during the same month.

INVESTMENTS IN ABUNDANCE

It is unsurprising that both of these burgeoning nations have witnessed excellent development within their respective tourism industries. Cyprus has long been investing in the diversification of its hospitality offering, with tourism providers striving to alter the destination’s popularity as a summer hotspot to a year-round destination.

Tappouras declared: “The industry has mainly been upgrading its hospitality offering to welcome different kinds of travellers. From visitors with mobility impairments to visitors with different cultural and language backgrounds, most of the hotels have multilingual employees that can serve clients from various markets, such as Russia and Germany, and have rebuilt their hotels to be able to facilitate guests that need special care.”

Nautical tourism is now a new focus for Cyprus’ tourism industry, and according to Tappouras, the country is in the process of building new marinas in Larnaca, Ayia Napa and Paphos, so as to be able to service yacht tourism.

High-tier tourism is also becoming a primary focus for both Greece and Cyprus, as they move away from the traditional sun, sea and sand offering to elevated, year-round experiences.

“The beach will always be crucial, but as more high-end experiences become available – including athletic, economic and gastronomic experiences – we will witness greater per capita spend by visitors,” Tanta remarked.

And what better way to entice discerning clientele than through individualised and tailored hospitality? Throughout 2018, Louis Hotels has strengthened its villa collection, as part of a greater strategy to provide an alternative offering with heightened privacy and personalisation.

“Personalisation is a worldwide trend in almost every industry, and tourism is not an exception. We expect more personalised demand from tourists regarding hotel facilities,” she added.

There is more than one way to entice the luxury market in the tourism industry, as proven by Sixt Rent A Car Cyprus’ marketing and corporate sales director, Michael Pnevmaticos: “We are increasing our luxury car selection in view of the opening of new hotels that increase the number of high-standard customers, who expect to be able to rent quality cars from an exclusive high-end fleet.”

Meanwhile in Greece, the country is taking great steps towards perfecting its luxury tourism segment, with an impressive lineup of opulent openings this year, including the country’s first ever Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts property.

Greece’s hospitality market leader, Astir Palace Vouliagmeni S.A., has joined forces with the luxury brand to inaugurate the Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens this month.

Following a more than $112.7 million renovation and rebrand, the hotel will comprise 300 rooms, suites and luxury bungalows, as well as spa and recreational facilities, infinity pools, conference and events centres, plus more.

“Astir Palace has always been a landmark destination of international stature, located in the Athenian Riviera, one of the most coveted areas in Greece,” CEO, Astir Palace Vouliagmeni S.A., Stelios Koutsivitis elucidated. “We are strongly committed to embracing its legacy and elevating Astir Palace to a world-class premium destination. We are excited to work closely with Four Seasons on one of the key areas of our redevelopment plan, to set a new benchmark for luxury hospitality in the country.”

Remaining active in the pursuit of further growth on the tourism front, industry movers and shakers in both nations will continue to make dauntless decisions, as Tanta illustrated: “The high expectations of tourists, combined with the intense increase in competition, will oblige us to keep investing in the tourism sector, which accounts for a substantial percentage of the GDP of both countries. To help sustain this, we will constantly make significant investments in our existing hotels, as well as in new ones, in both Greece and Cyprus.”