By Andreas Izamis
In order to overcome the stagnation often encountered in Nicosia during the summer months, a concerted effort by the state and local authorities is required as well as the rebranding of Nicosia in general.
Speaking to Cyprus Weekly, President of the Nicosia Tourism Board (NTB) Elena Tanou believes the capital needs to spruce itself up.
“There is a lack of structured design, it’s a bit of a jumble,” she said but was quick to point out that things are moving in the right direction.
“With the new Eleftheria Square and in conjunction with Laiki Yitonia and the old town, as well as the development of the old GSP stadium, we will have a line of interest stretching from the Presidential Palace to the heart of Nicosia, but it needs to be completed,” she added.
Add to this the planned construction of the new archaeological museum in the grounds of the old Nicosia General Hospital which, with the existing museum, will form a museum network, Nicosia will finally be a true cultural destination.
“It’s all about presentation,” explains Tanou, noting that efforts should be made to enhance visitors’ experience in Nicosia.
“Once these projects are completed, then Nicosia can start thinking about attracting tourism during August, but events will be programmed for the evenings as the high daytime temperatures are very much a deterrent,” she added.
However, it is not just the Nicosia Municipality that needs to work on this issue. As Tanou explains, the adjoining municipalities of Ayios Dometios, Strovolos, Engomi, Pallourotissa, Aglandjia and Latsia all need to play a role in this effort.
“The municipalities need to list their places of interest, unique features etc. so that events can be organised in such a way as to attract the most number of people possible,” she added.
Although some progress has been made on the issue, Tanou explains that coordination is required to ensure the success of the process.
“Progress is spasmodic as business interest in Nicosia is very diverse, as opposed to, say, Limassol, whose business community and especially the hoteliers are primarily geared towards the tourist industry and push for its development,” she said, “This is where the state must step in to ensure the necessary infrastructure projects are developed,” she added.
The NTB, explains Tanou, due to its budget, can only organise events to attract tourists to Nicosia’s uniqueness – its culture.
Unfortunately, the large majority of summer tourists in Cyprus are only interested in sea and sun and very few venture inland from their coastal accommodations.
“Attempts in the past to bring day-trippers to Nicosia during July and August were not very successful,” she added.
Cultural tourism starts in September and October, and that is where the NTB has invested as well as in conferences and incentives tourism, business tourism, sports tourism and educational tourism.
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The uniqueness of Nicosia is further enhanced by the number of universities found in the city, and this is an area where the NTB believes investments should be made.
“We want to attract youth into Nicosia, to fill the city with life,” said Tanou.
She is of the opinion that in August, Nicosia belongs to the youth, but again, during the late afternoon hours and in the evening, when temperatures are cooler.
“Nicosia is quite lively during August, but you’ll see it in the evenings, some spots are really packed with youngsters,” said Tanou.
“We are at the moment concentrating on attracting tourists for the 10 months of the year between September and June,” said Tanou.
The NTB has organised events and tours around Nicosia, including walking tours, bicycle tours, museum tours, concerts and the very successful ‘Ride the Capital ‘cycling event attract tourists from other cities in Cyprus.
Work is now currently under way to rebrand Nicosia, with the NTB asking local residents what best describes their city.
However, in the final analysis, Tanou maintains that coordinated efforts by all stakeholders should be made to ensure that Nicosia develops into a well-organised, well-structured tourist destination which will offer visitors an unforgettable experience.
Disgruntled shop owners
According to Small Shopkeepers’ Association (POVEK), August is the worst month for business.
“Unfortunately, a large proportion of the workforce in Nicosia is public sector employees, so when August comes around, everyone goes on vacation, things grind to a halt,” said POVEK president Stefanos Koursaris.
“Good or bad, August is known as the holiday month,” he added
Despite August also being the month of summer sales, it offers little comfort to storekeepers.
“It is the worst month of the year for our members,” explains Koursaris.
It seems to be a double-edged sword for the small shopkeepers. On the one hand, they rely on the sales to pick up business and on the other, August being the ‘holiday month’ sees most of Nicosia heading abroad or to the coastal areas.
Although things have changed within the old city, with Ledra and Onasagorou Street filled with coffee shops and eateries, and the area around the Famagusta gate has a multitude of bars and places of interest, Koursaris points a finger at the media for adding to the ‘desolation phenomenon’.
“The media promotes this mindset; every year, the major TV channels show Nicosia’s deserted streets and closed shops. We need to change this,” he added.