A Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) official has confirmed that a big effort is underway to bolster winter tourism after a record number of summer arrivals in 2016.
Speaking to state radio, CTO Senior Tourism Officer Marinos Menelaou said around 3.5million people visited Cyprus in the last 11 months which represents historically high figures both in terms of the number of arrivals but also revenue generated from tourism.
Now, he continued, the effort was focused on getting a better grip on winter tourism because Cyprus, as he claimed, holds many upper hands over its competitors.
“With regards to 2016, we had a record number of arrivals and revenue generated from tourism. That represents almost four tourists for every Cypriot this year. It is a massive success and one which we need to build on.”
“From spring up until October, we received a large number of visitors with July representing the highest ever in terms of arrivals.”
Menelaou went on to say that the onus was now on beefing up operations for winter tourism.
“We need to invest and do more for winter tourism in Cyprus. We cannot be just a tourism destination for only five to six months of the year. From November up until March, we need see what can be done to increase the numbers there too. Tourism is the cornerstone of our economy and it is something that we need to ensure stays strong.”
“We need to work on our image of winter tourism and how it is promoted abroad. That for us is the big challenge at the moment. There has been a rise in winter tourism but we are lacking behind other destinations like the Canary Islands. They get around five to six million visitors ever winter.”
“They have slightly better infrastructure than us but we have the upper hand over a number of other things such as warmer waters, better weather, less rain and better attraction sites to visit and that includes Troodos where tourists can even ski during some months. We are also looking to further promote our cultural attractions and sports tourism, especially for football teams.”
When asked about how most businesses in the prime tourist areas of Cyprus like Ayia Napa and Protaras shut shop in the winter, Menelaou replied, “We acknowledge that that is one of the challenges that we face (in promoting winter tourism).”
“I suppose it’s like the chicken and the egg? They will not stay open and keep their businesses operating during the winter if there are no visitors. We are trying to change their minds though and are offering them various incentives to stay open.”
“For example, we have signed a deal with an Austrian tour operator that will bring 7,000 visitors – aged 50 and above – in March this year and another 7,000 in March 2018. We feel that this will be a chance for them to get some business and we encourage them to try and breathe some life into the area.”
Brits lead the way
When asked about the types of visitors arriving in Cyprus in 2016, Menelaou confirmed that Britons (36%) made up the bulk of the 3.5million tourist followed by Russians (25%).
“Together, they make up 61% of our tourists but we have also seen an increase in the number of arrivals from neighbouring Israel. For 2015 and 2016, we have seen visits from Israel peak at 140,000.”
“We find this especially interesting because of the close proximity to Israel. Many Israelis see Cyprus as a great location to visit for a short-stay holiday. We have increased flights to and from Israel and have even opened up flights to Israel to and from Paphos.”
Speaking about some of the problems facing tourism in general such as shoddy facilities at some beaches, lack of clean beaches in some areas and road works in tourism areas, Menelaou replied, “There is always room for improvement. When it comes to issues like beaches and roads, that is really the duty of the local government or the municipality. We offer some small budgets to assist but all we can do is assist.”
“But to be honest, the feedback we get from tourists and from tour operators is that they are especially happy with the quality of our beaches. In fact, we are told that we score so high that we are regarded as having some of the best beaches in the world.”
“We are also aware of some issues with some personnel at hotels (following reports of rude or incapable staff). We are encouraging hotels to make their staff members long-term instead of short term.”
He added: “We are all part of the tourism chain and we all need to help. From those welcoming visitors at the airports to those in the hotels and entertainment centres, we all need to lend a hand.”