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Conference tourism remains pie-in-the-sky

This week the European Commission published a list of cities that had applied to host the two EU bodies that will move out of the UK when Britain leaves the EU: the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA).

Malta, with a population of 420,000, was among them. Cyprus was nowhere to be seen. Some people have pointed out that it would have been a waste of money.

To win the EMA, for example, you would need to have 350 spare beds per night and match the current EMA’s 6,000 square metres of meeting rooms.

The fact that there was no point in bidding is not so much a failure of today, therefore, but a failure of yesterday.

Successive governments have been talking about the need to promote conference tourism.

However, to do this, you need not just lots of hotel rooms but all kinds of complementary services as well: good flight connections and decent public transport, to name just two.

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When the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) had its annual conference here in May, the organisers hired lots of private buses to ferry people around and some of the EBRD staff had to stay in Larnaca because there were no rooms left in Nicosia.

The government and the travel industry have made good progress on increasing flight connectivity, but building large, 5-star hotels continues to be hampered by cumbersome licensing procedures, and we still lack a modern, 24-hour bus service.

One way of focusing minds on these issues would be to push ahead with the planned deputy tourism ministry. Let’s hope it is passed once the presidential elections are over.

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