Cyprus may have attracted a record 3.2 million tourists in 2016 but instability in the region actually cost it tourist arrivals, Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) chief Angelos Loizou told deputies on Monday.
Addressing the House finance committee, which discussed the CTO’s 2017 budget, Loizou cited the organisation’s projections for tourist arrivals in 2016, estimated at 2.96 million the year before.
“Instead, we had 3.2 million,” he said.
“What happened? We got about 200,000 more [tourists] from Russia, an additional 300,000 from other countries, and we lost some because Cyprus is at the epicentre of geopolitical troubles.”
He cited data from travel agencies to support the figures.
“We know exactly what has happened, what we have lost and what we have gained,” Loizou said, adding that the increased numbers were the result of the CTO’s targeted promotion methods.
The CTO chief was incensed by deputies’ views that the sum total of the organisation’s efforts come down to promoting Cyprus’ sun and sea.
“Half of our efforts are to promote not the sun and the sea, but the rest of the [tourist] product,” he protested.
Replying to an observation by Edek leader Marinos Sizopoulos that the Greek island of Crete attracted four million tourists last year, Loizou cited reports by the Greek Tourism Organisation, as well as the Greek Association of Tourist Business, that showed a low per-head tourist expenditure in the island.
“None of you would want Crete’s tourism – not with an average €460 per-head spending,” he said, adding that a comparable group of German tourists spent an average €900 per head in Cyprus.
“We should be aware of these things so we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.”
Loizou noted that 38 per cent of arrivals in Cyprus in the past year opted for all-inclusive packages, mainly in the coastline and in specific months.
“But we need to understand that this is a global trend, and we can’t change the global economy,” he said.
“The global economy has been affected to a great extent, and people want more controlled holidays, fewer days. This is achieved through all-inclusive packages.”
Discussion then turned toward a government bill for the creation of a tourism under-secretariat to replace the CTO.
“We are greatly concerned with how planning is done,” Loizou said.
“We, too, would like to know where we stand on this issue.”
The CTO, he said, has no strategic decision-making powers, which lie with the office of the president and the commerce ministry.
Committee chairman Averof Neophytou said the bill must be discussed as a priority.
“If parliament votes in favour of creating an under-secretariat, we should know what the CTO’s role is going to be; if not, we should know how to proceed,” he said.
“As long as the bill remains pending, discussion creates a lot of problems.”
The tourism authority’s 2017 budget includes total expenditure of €50.8 million, up from last year’s €50.54 million.