Cyprus developing as a year round tourist destination

Cyprus has always had a well developed tourism industry traditionally based around the ‘sun sea and sand’ set. But the country has much more to offer, as GINA COLMAN discovers
Stalls and family entertainment in Larnaca

The third largest island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus has always had a well developed tourism industry. The United Kingdom has traditionally been its strongest market and until recently, the summer ‘sun, sea and sand’ season was the most popular time to visit. But indications are all that is about to change.
This May, it was announced that an additional $11 million is to be pumped into promoting winter tourism, while the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), working with the private sector, is also emphasising the MICE market, cruise ship traffic, sports tourism, medical, ‘wellness’, cultural and religious tourism, museums, theme parks - and Cyprus as a wedding destination.
According to statistics more than 4,000 Britons, as well as many other nationals, had their weddings in Cyprus last year and the figure for 2008 is expected to be higher. About 1,000 visitors from the UAE also spent their honeymoon in Cyprus in 2007.
CTO Chairman, Panos Englezos, says, “We want Cyprus to be seen as an all-year round tourist destination as it was in the past, and not only a summer destination.” Meanwhile, director general Phoebe Katsouri said the government’s pledge for winter promotions is part of a three year initiative which requires a pledge by the tourism industry to keep a full range of services open year round. “We are on the brink of danger of becoming a summer only destination. This is a threat we need to avert. Our competitors have made huge investments in tourist infrastructure... We have to move ahead with speed and determination to promote important projects.”
The country’s Revised Strategic Tourism Development Plan covers the period until 2010, and includes increased advertising in all markets, and greater collaboration with tour operators, travel agents and airlines.
Phoebe Katsouri says that the CTO expects a significant increase in winter tourism from Russia, Germany and Scandinavian countries. Apart from the UK, other markets to be targeted include Greece, France, Ireland, Poland, Holland, Austria, Italy, Romania, and Jordan.
Akis Kelepeshis, president of the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents said, “It appears that 2008 will be the start of a firm upward course [in tourism] and this is due to the coordinated activity of all of us: the Ministry of [Commerce, Industry and] Tourism, the CTO and associations in the private sector. But there is still a lot to be done for consolidating our position in the world and, mainly, on the European tourism map.”
Cyprus, meanwhile, continues to attract ‘second home’ buyers, many of whom choose to spend extended holidays in their properties, visiting several times a year; however their ‘spend’ never registers in the tourism statistics. The Republic’s adoption of the Euro as its currency on January 1, 2008 has benefited visitors and investors from the Eurozone, who no longer face exchange rate fluctuations.