By Zoe Christodoulides
CYPRUS may be in the throes of recession but that doesn’t stop foreigners visiting the sun-kissed island in search of the high life. Visitors who click on to the flash website of Cyprus VIP Service can take their pick from a whole range of luxurious options, whether they have the urge to take off on a private jet plane, attend an event in a limo, rent out a swish car for a day, or cruise around the island’s shores onboard a glitzy yacht.
With most businesses these days desperately trying to find ways to lure in the customers with special deals and cheaper prices, it may at first seem like an oddity that others are advertising all things exuberant. But when your main clientele are millionaire Russians, you needn’t worry about your services appearing too luxurious. The success of Cyprus VIP Service in fact validates that niche services geared towards rich tourists can certainly prove fruitful, no matter what the general economic climate of the island.
“It’s mostly rich people from Russia, Ukraine and Moldova that seek our services,” explains manager Eleonora Ashiotis. Unsurprisingly, locals these days are not really interested in such extravagant services. “Not many Cypriots use our services but when they do, they will opt for the cheaper activities, it’s the foreigners that are the real spenders,” Ashiotis confirms.
The company managed to target rich foreign clientele from the get-go back in 2004, when the business first kicked off with just one small yacht that would take Russian tourists on fishing expeditions and luxury cruises around the island’s shores.
It wasn’t simply the cruise itself that made the company stand out, but the treatment given to customers when they were taken to and from the boat. “We added in a luxury limo service for free,” points out Ashiotis. “And it was widely appealing because we made sure that every desire was catered to from the moment they set off on their adventure.”
While the Chrysler C300 was the first limousine used to impress the customers, the company’s limo and yacht service just kept growing year by year. Then came birthday and hen night parties on board these yachts and special party limos. “What we often don’t realise here in Cyprus is that you can’t afford to deal with foreign guests with a lazy attitude. We put top class service as our priority and made it our mission to surpass the expectations of the customers.”
By far the most popular service today is the luxury yacht expedition combined with deep sea fishing; an activity which is sometimes combined with a flight into Cyprus on a private jet, the whole experience amounting to a whopping €50,000 in total.
Once on board, clients can engage in deep sea fishing, while a personal chef prepares sashimi as the fresh fish – frequently octopus, tuna or cod – comes out of the sea. “The Russians are absolutely fanatic about this,” raves Eleonora. “As we all know, they just love our crystal clear waters and sunshine; something they can hardly enjoy at home.” And the expression of this love often sees them jet over to Cyprus for a mere day, lapping up the warm weather and eating their fish in true style before returning to colder climes back home.
While some are just intent to fish in the clear waters, others opt for a luxury cruise from Larnaca to Konnos or the picturesque CapeGreco in the Ayia Napa area. Some are content with a limousine to transport them to their yacht upon arrival, but others however, are far more partial towards helicopters.
When it comes to high flyers, some are intent on taking trial flight sessions where they can get to grips with being in the sky side by side with an instructor. But the VIP Service company manager believes Cyprus still has a long way to go if it wants to catch up with the rest of Europe in order to offer the best possible services and activities to highly valued visitors.
“If we were more lenient with our helicopter licences and we had more helipads – something we are in dire need of – we could draw in far more people who would want to experience Cyprus from above. Offering services like these brings much needed money into our island,” says Ashiotis. “Then there’s so much we could do as a country when it comes to nautical tourism, to really promote it and focus on excelling in the services we can offer. Rich tourists love to tour around the island like Kings. And in times like these, when Cyprus is suffering financially, income from those who have money abroad is crucial. Our island has so much to offer holidaymakers and really taking it to the next level, in my opinion, is where our future lies.”