With its picturesque villages, glistening seas and buzzing cities, the Mediterranean invites travellers from far and wide to explore its every corner. Natalie Hami reports.
Lazy days on the beach soaking up the sun is an activity that has traditionally been sought after by travellers to the Med. However, the region’s travel and tourism bodies have been upping the ante, focusing heavily on quality and authenticity.
In the far corners of the Mediterranean, on the island of Cyprus, the Larnaka Tourism Board has been looking to broaden its tourism portfolio, according to one of its officers, Nana Asmeni Pavlou, who explained that the tourism authority is currently implementing a strategic plan focusing on three main pillars. These include: changing the perception of the destination by placing an emphasis on its competitive advantages; focusing on the special interest forms of tourism for which the town has a good basis; and striving to improve the quality of the destination with regards to infrastructure, visual characteristics and places of industry.
“The latter is a long-term effort that requires the cooperation of all stakeholders. The Larnaka Tourism Board acts as the umbrella-organisation for tourism on a regional basis, coordinating the activities of the main local players of the industry,” Pavlou explained.
Keen to showcase Larnaca as more than just a sun and sea haven, Pavlou highlighted that the destination is one of the world’s 20 oldest continuously inhabited cities. “As such, it has numerous historic, archaeological and cultural sites for the visitor to explore. A characteristic feature of the region is that tourists will find that there is no distinction between resort and town; locals and visitors alike can enjoy the same daily experience of a charming and diverse Mediterranean city. From stretches of Blue Flag beaches with a variety of watersports, to cultural events at the famous Palm Tree Promenade [dubbed Phinikoudes by locals], or a gastronomic route in some of the picturesque villages.”
Meanwhile in Turkey, another popular Mediterranean destination, culinary experiences have proven popular among those looking for unique and memorable adventures.
Specialising in bespoke luxury itineraries in key cities and regions of Turkey, founder, Blue Phoenix Travel, Ufuk Gokdeniz revealed to TTG that due to the rise of the Internet, people tend to ‘consume options very quickly’. In response to this, Blue Phoenix Travel has been focusing on personal experiences, such as cooking lessons.
“Having a cooking lesson in royal Ottoman cuisine with a friendly chef attracts all my clients. I am also taking care of their daily routines, such as giving my guests some local recommendations that they can discover on their own, or spending time with them for tea or drinks without charging them, making them feel more comfortable. With our friendly conversations, they learn about our culture more and more.”
Located on the European shores of the Bosphorus, the five-star Ciragan Palace Kempinski, Istanbul is also keen to emphasise the destination’s fascinating history via culinary adventures for its guests.
Promising guests a magical journey through time, the property’s sales and marketing director, Armagan Yolcu exclusively told TTG: “We have a brand-new dining experience, Sultan’s Dinner, for those who are willing to enchant their guests with unique tastes and presentations from the Ottoman era in a real Ottoman palace. Each and every detail has been carefully considered to define the Sultan’s Dinner experience.”
And while delectable cuisine is a driving force for travellers spanning the globe, so is finding the ultimate luxury experience entwined with memorable local adventures.
CEO, Baglioni Hotels and Resorts, Guido Polito noted: “Our mission is to make our guests’ stay with us an unforgettable one. Each of our hotels provides a true sense of place where they can experience local customs and traditions.
“Our daily activities are aimed at creating new one-of-a-kind local experiences to meet the demands of the increased numbers of international luxury travellers,” he added.
Ensuring that the needs of a guest are pre-empted, Polito explained that once a reservation is confirmed at a Baglioni Hotel, the concierge gets in direct contact with the guest so as to anticipate their wishes or specific needs prior to arrival.
“Once the contact with the concierge is established, the guest can benefit from a 24-hour service until they check out. Our team on property aims to make the impossible possible, and with over 40 years in the business, we have built up a wealth of contacts to make dreams come true and ensure each experience is befitting of our luxury collection.”
Bolstering existing markets and reaching out to new ones continues to be of utmost significance in the tourism industry, with stakeholders throughout the region raising their game to target travellers from far and wide.
According to vice president, Ambotis Group, Kostas Kourtidis, the company spares neither time nor effort in preparing attractive offers for travel agents, in an effort to target new markets.
“Since 1993, we have been actively and successfully working not only on the markets of Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and former CIS countries, but also the Balkans and China.”
Specifically referring to the MENA region, he said: “Our plans include further expansion of the partner network in the MENA countries. Clients from this unique region are some of the most loyal; 85 per cent of tourists that once visited our resorts keep coming again and again. It is worth mentioning that we guarantee an individual approach to our partners and offer special sales tools and incentives, such as high commission, a user-friendly online booking system, online training, webinars and inspection tours.”
Based in Cyprus, Drakos DMC is also keen to cast a wide net, focusing on clientele from North America to Japan, Europe and the Middle East, according to project manager, Celine Gasq.
“We have attended the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai for the last three years to promote Cyprus to the emerging Middle East market, which is still one of our minor markets. We are confident that all our marketing efforts will have bigger results in the next few years as the Middle East market holds substantial potential for Cyprus.”
Vice president sales and marketing, Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer, Axel Hoppenot also noted the importance of the unique MENA market, revealing the GCC market in particular as one of their source markets, especially during the summer season. Other feeder markets include France, Russia, the US and the UK.
Travellers from around the globe continue to be captivated and wooed by the many charming destinations of the Mediterranean.