Cyprus hopes for better year
CYPRUS suffered a dip in tourist arrivals in 2013 due to the negative publicity surrounding its €10 billion ($13.7 billion) bailout earlier the same year. However, things are slowly looking up in 2014 as a result of concerted efforts from the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO).
In terms of tourism infrastructure, the island country, just south of Turkey, still ranks among the best in the world. “Cyprus does have very good facilities for tourists,” says Vassilis Theocharides, director of CTO Middle East. “Naturally, over and above tourism, we first need to satisfy the residents and citizens of a country and keep the destination globally competitive. Having said that, Cyprus has been a tourism hotspot since the 1960s and therefore, we had to invest considerably in the infrastructure.”
The tourism arrival numbers have been fluctuating for Cyprus these past few years. As of November 2013 figures, there has been a dip (about 13 per cent) in British tourists since November 2011. On the other hand, there has been a sizeable increase (almost 80 per cent) in tourists from Russia over the same period of time. Tourists from Sweden (up 73.4 per cent), Canada (up 94.7 per cent) and Ireland (up 308 per cent) have favoured Cyprus immensely during the same period. Total arrivals in November 2013, however, have gone down 12.2 per cent from November 2011.
Meanwhile, competition gets tougher from neighbouring destinations that offer visa upon arrivals. The year 2014 looks positive, with Cyprus expecting €2 billion (about $2.7 billion) from tourism this year, as confirmed by Theocharides.
So what has the Middle East’s contribution been in Cypriot tourism? In 2013, the Middle East contributed to about 60,000 arrivals out of nearly 2.5 million overall. Between February and November 2013, there were 23,815 from Lebanon and 13,372 from the UAE.
“We expect an increase of arrivals from the region when Qatar Airways announces the launch of the Larnaca route, hopefully in April 2014,” says the director. “We are going to launch a campaign with Qatar Airways to help the flight and introduce the destination to their route. The CTO will also actively pursue meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibition, as well as weddings this year to assist arrivals in the shoulder periods between November to April.”
Sports tourism is also one of the CTOs most valuable assets when it comes to alternative forms of tourism, its general manager Marios Hannides said in an interview in early February this year. “This is why we are determined to work harder to strengthen sports tourism. We need to coordinate our efforts so we can take advantage of the good weather conditions, the sun, services, hospitality and our professionalism to take sports tourism even higher,” he said at a conference to present the organisation’s initiatives for sports tourism.
He added that developing alternative forms of tourism can give visitors a richer experience, contributing to forming a picture of Cyprus as a complete tourist package. It can also contribute to battling seasonality and increasing arrivals during quieter periods.
By Rashi Sen