Following a poor season last year and a slow start in 2007, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) reported 6.4 per cent year-on-year growth in September, partly fuelled by an early onset to winter in parts of mainland Europe.
“We had a late start to the season this year, but many of the hotels were full through to the end of October, much later than usual,” a hotelier in the south eastern coastal resort of Agia Napa told TTN.
According to the CTO and the government statistics office, 1,972,493 tourists visited Cyprus between January and September 2007, with the September figures showing a particularly encouraging resurgence in visitors from the UK. There were 4.7 per cent more British tourists in September 2007 than in September 2006, or 9,000 extra visitors in one month from a single market.
Other growing markets are Russia – up 43.9 per cent to 22,839 visitors; France up by 35.5 per cent; and Sweden, up by 22.5 per cent.
Surprisingly, German arrivals were down 5.9 per cent in September compared to the same period last year.
A turnaround over February figures, which had shown an overall five per cent decrease in arrivals (with arrivals from the UK down 15.2 per cent; down 17.5 percent from France, but up from Germany by 17.2 and up from Greece by 11.8 per cent respectively.)
Property on the island is open to foreign investment, with EU nationals now having the same property rights as Cypriots. Many visitors to the island already own property there, and analysts say there is a move by visitors towards making their own flight and accommodation reservations over the internet in preference to taking standard all-inclusive package holidays – a move fuelled partly by the advent of a number of low-cost carriers.
The CTO has been pushing for a general upgrade of leisure and tourism infrastructure while developing the MICE market and specialist leisure holidays.
In addition to the development of sports facilities – which have increasingly led to Cyprus being selected as a top destination for winter sports training camps by teams from northern Europe – the government is supporting the development of new marinas and there are currently proposals to build eleven new 18-hole championship golf courses.
Many of these proposals will take years to implement, and among the concerns of the island’s planners are the feasibility, economic and social costs of irrigating such ‘thirsty’ projects. The government has determined that all golf courses will have to rely on desalination and water treatment plants for their irrigation in view of their huge demand for the already scarce resource.
Environmental impact studies were carried out for proposed international standard 18-hole golf courses in Lemesos (Pentakomo); Larnaca (Oroklini); and Ammochostos (Agia Napa) with the gov-ernment then saying it would offer public land to a consortia of local authorities and hoteliers on a long-term lease.
In May 2005, the government passed legislation to assist in the development of the new golf courses, recognising that they were unlikely to be economically viable unless linked to real estate development. The legislation carried certain specifications, including a minimum floor areas for houses; a requirement for hotels to be five star and not above three storeys in height; that the developments had to be in keeping with the character of the local environment; building materials had to be in harmony with those of the traditional villages; and that the masonry colours must match the local terrain.
The legislation even requires ‘luxurious clubhouses’ with separate areas for members and visitors; a driving range, practice holes, putting greens and practice chipping areas.
As the president of the Cyprus Golf Federation says, “To ensure quality and preclude any possibility of cheap developments, little is left to the absolute discretion of the developer.”
One property developer, Paphos-based Kouroushi Brothers, has branched into timeshare or fractional ownership properties, citing the outstanding success of the concept in the mainland Spain and Tenerife markets. Over the last 13 years, the Kouroushi Group has built and sold many residential properties in and around the Paphos area, and also in Lefkosia (Larnaca) and Lemesos (Limassol).
In addition, the group teamed up with the Paradise Group for a timeshare resort (already operational) in Paphos, and has two more Kouroushi Lion Resort fractional ownership projects in the pipeline. Joint founder Kypros Kouroushi told TTN “Spain and Tenerife have reaped the benefits of timeshare, with 35 per cent of the properties sold to foreign investors in Spain, and 90 per cent in Tenerife being timeshare. Cyprus can also benefit from these kinds of developments, which is why we have decided to move into the market”.
Rural Tourism, winter skiing, spring nature trails, historical and religious tourism, are also being developed to overcome the seasonality of a product previously marketed on a ‘sea, sand and sun’ basis.