Interview: Cyprus Tourism Official Buoyed by Record Tourism Numbers

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Cyprus tourism is witnessing tremendous growth as record number of tourists flock to the idyllic Mediterranean island. Arabian Gazette interacts with George Minas from Cyprus Tourism Organisation to know more on the tourist numbers, why one should travel to Cyprus, and what are some of the attractions awaiting travelers to Cyprus!

Fine white sandy beaches with shallow turquoise waters, lush green mountain ranges, the best of Mediterranean cuisine, friendly and approachable people, warm hospitality in the traditional villages, vibrant nightlife and rich and varied history – that’s in essence what Cyprus has got to offer to tourists.

Cyprus, officially the Republic of Cyprus, is an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea with rich history and culture.

Cyprus ranks 52nd in The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2017 and is a major tourist destination in the Mediterranean. The extremely naturally beautiful island nation saw around 3.6 million International tourist arrivals in 2017, bringing in US$ 2.48 billion in tourism receipts – with an average spend of US$ 935 per tourist.

With 11,000 years of history and civilization gathered together on one island, Cyprus is also known as the ‘original island of love‘, and an island with World Heritage status.

At the recent Arabian Travel Market event in Dubai, we had a chance to interact with George Minas, tourist officer from Cyprus Tourism Organisation who shared some interesting stats and facts on Cyprus. Here are the excerpts:

…On major sources of tourists to Cyprus

George: Globally, major sources of tourists for Cyprus are UK, Russia, Greece, Germany, Scandinavian countries and Lebanon.

Visitors from the GCC increased by 21.3 per cent in 2017, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributing the largest growth at 48.4 per cent, followed by the UAE at 19.6 per cent. The UAE is the largest source of tourists from the GCC. However, regionally Lebanon tops the list and is an important source of tourists for Cyprus reaching more than 58,000 tourist arrivals with important prospects for growth for 2018.

Cyprus is a well-known destination for Lebanese, and appears to be a very favourable destination for sun and sea holidays of 3 or 4 nights.  Especially the Agia Napa/Protaras, a region well known for the best beaches on the island, attracts most of the Lebanese who are keen on visiting the beaches resorts of the region. Around 60% of the Lebanese book their holidays and travel individually while the island is an ideal destination for weddings for the Lebanese.

The visitors in Cyprus are amazed by the rich site seeing options in such a small island with plenty of historical and archaeological sites, crystal clear blue waters, the cleanest in Europe, the 59 blue flag sandy beaches, the high level of services offered by the hotels and the traditional Cypriot hospitality.  That is why the island experiences a boom in tourist arrivals during the last few years, with 2017 being a record year in tourist arrivals historically and with a high percentage of repeaters, who is more than 40%.

If you are looking for short escapes, within just a 3-hour flight time, Cyprus is an ideal destination, offering many options to the potential visitor for both sun and sea luxury holidays as well as rural escapes to traditional agro tourism houses on the picturesque mountain villages, as well as for conferences, incentives, weddings etc.

The high season for tourist arrivals in the summer season ranges from June to September. But during the last few years the high season has expanded to include also April -May and October due to the favourable weather conditions, with hotels reporting high occupancy throughout.

…On easing Visa regulations to attract more tourists

When asked if Cyprus has any plans to ease visa regulations to boost tourism, similar to how Georgia and Azerbaijan are doing resulting in increase in tourists to those countries, especially targeting the huge expat population from the sub-continent working and living in the region, George said that Cyprus is bound by EU laws and therefore limited with options. Additionally, due to the cooperation with the VFS visa application centers, the VISA procedure has now become smooth with applicants receiving high level of services and fast procedures.

Cyprus presents an appealing package, a different experience, and I would say a very luxury experience that improves in quality of services year after year. Everyone who visits Cyprus will enjoy the hospitality of the Cypriot people, a high level of services, and the proximity of moving from one city to another within 1 hour 30 minutes, with spectacular beauty and culture in between”

…Outlook for Cyprus tourism

George: 2017 was the most successful year for Cyprus tourism. It was a record year for the country with 3.6 million tourist arrivals, reaching a significant milestone for the island. Cyprus is a safe destination and the prospects for tourism is very positive, reflected in the positive arrivals already experienced this year. The feedback we receive from our associates in the airline industry and travel agents is extremely positive and we are expecting further success for 2018.

Our increased marketing activities in the region during the year have supported our efforts to increase the awareness of the destination to the GCC countries and increased the demand for trips to Cyprus. Furthermore, the introduction of the new flights of Cobalt air connecting Abu Dhabi and Larnaka International Airport provide improved connectivity with the region with very competitive rates. This will definitely result in an expected a double digit growth this year from the GCC countries and especially the UAE.

On how Cyprus plans to attract more tourists…

George: during last year we had good co-operation with Action Global Communications, our PR agent in the GCC, and arranged many press trips and familiarization (FAM) trips for travel agents, the results we believe will be reaped in the next two-three years. It’s important to gain coverage in the local media, either online or print media, and of course it’s also important for the travel agents and front line staff to have the experience of the destination themselves so that they can visualise the destination they are selling.

We are also planning to have an online promotional advertising campaign in the region during this year, which will focus on cities where we have direct flights to Cyprus such as Emirates in Dubai, Cobalt in Abu Dhabi, Qatar Airways in Doha and Gulf Air in Manama.

On some of the new developments and attractions coming up in Cyprus…

George: There are a number of new projects currently in the pipeline for Cyprus’ travel and tourism offering, with Ayia Napa currently constructing a new world-class marina, renovations of leading hotels across the island, the opening of an Island resort casino in Limassol, two inaugural Radisson hotels in Larnaka, and the opening of Park Lane and Amara hotels in Limassol.

Photo credits: Cyprus Tourism Office

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