By Ajay Goyal
CYPRUS IS beginning to receive individual cost conscious tourists that seek a personalised experience. These individuals – sophisticated adventurers and explorers – cannot be herded or grouped together for toxic doses of sunshine and souvlaki. They want to explore the cultural and spiritual heritage of Cyprus. There are millions of such tourists from Europe, Russia, China and other raging economies seeking places to visit.
Unfortunately Cyprus does not have the readiness and infrastructure to cater for the real expectations and needs of these tourists.
Building new, green tourist transport infrastructure and connecting the island with low cost networks could be a significant contributor to sustainable economic growth in Cyprus.
With the advent of Ryanair, Norwegian Airlines, Wizz and other budget airlines from Europe, these sophisticated cultural tourists can now make their way to Cyprus on a budget. The trouble is that they are limited by a transport infrastructure fit only for the 1970s once they get here. Public transport is patchy and disoriented. Private transport is prohibitive. Introducing new transport systems is not about a choice of survival between public buses, individual taxi transfers and mass touristic transfer systems. The answer is all of the above – and more – in a balanced, modern, green transport system for Cyprus that can rise up to new demands and challenges.
To become a true tourist power house of the 21st century – and receive the right quality of travellers, giving them a unique cultural experience and making them loyal lovers of Cyprus – the island needs a few innovative solutions.
One immediate essential is new systems of green buses, sightseeing vehicles, gravity ropeways, electric rickshaws, bicycles, ferries and barges.
The island of Aphrodite has no means of easily taking tourists to Aphrodite’s playground of Chrysochous Bay. A person arriving at Larnaca airport in the late afternoon can take public transport to Polis Chrysochous – but it will take nearly 16 hours with an overnight layover in Limassol. Many modern travellers travel with their bikes and backpacks. They do not wish to self drive, preferring to enjoy the view and feel Cyprus rather than zip past beautiful villages and churches.
A cross island connectivity that can take travellers from end to end on the island within three hours is a desperately needed solution. There should be no need for a passenger arriving in Paphos on a budget airline to fork three times the air fare to travel to Protaras. Nor should a passenger landing in Larnaca pay twice their airline ticket to get to Polis. The road infrastructure of Cyprus is extremely good – all that is required now is a fleet of green vehicles to connect all major urban centres with airports and each other. The current transport system is admirable but behind the times and too cautious towards preserving vested interests.
A second system needs to be a rural and scenic hop on-hop off system of specially designed buses that can connect villages, beauty spots and natural trails. The first advantage of this system would be that young Cypriots would get to know their own beautiful country. I am always surprised that we foreigners know more of the island’s rich cultural heritage than young Cypriots. A new web of connectivity would also improve internal labour migration within Cyprus.
Both these systems are necessary for many reasons and have numerous advantages: They would immediately increase tourist interest in Cyprus, bringing in millions of the more individual travellers. The new system would help develop internal tourism which is more cost conscious than foreign – and reduce carbon emissions. It would ease domestic labour migration within Cyprus, opening up the job markets to Cypriots in remote areas. These systems would not only encourage the arrival of a cost conscious, but sophisticated tourist looking for an “experience” but create hundreds of new jobs for young people.
Arrival of these tourists in villages and economically deprived areas would generate very significant all-year tourism revenues.
These types of transport webs and bus-systems have been tried and tested in many Alpine regions with great success. Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur transport in France is a model and inspiration. Many Swiss towns now disallow cars within their boundaries during the tourist season. Limiting cars and introducing rickshaws, electric cars, horse carriages and bikes could enhance Cyprus’ tourism profile and make it the darling of the modern green tourist. It is important to note that these systems do not take away customers from taxi companies or public bus systems as they tend to add new numbers or new type of travellers to the transport system.
The beauty of these systems is that they are attractive propositions for private funding and developing green transport systems would no doubt bring support from the European Union and partner regions with a wealth of experience.
Once Cyprus provides easy and affordable connectivity to its lovely destinations, an influx of vigorous tourists will electrify Cyprus’ economy and get it going again.
Ajay Goyal is a businessmen and CEO of Zening Resorts in Latsi