By Peter Stevenson
SPORTS tourism is a one of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) most valuable assets when it comes to alternative forms of tourism, its general manager Marios Hannides said yesterday.
“This is why we are determined to work harder to strengthen sports tourism. We need to coordinate our efforts so we can take advantage of the good weather conditions, the sun, services, hospitality and our professionalism to take sports tourism even higher,” he said at a conference to present the organisation’s initiatives for sports tourism.
He added that developing alternative forms of tourism can give visitors a richer experience, contributing to forming a picture of Cyprus as a complete tourist package.
It can also contribute to battling seasonality and increasing arrivals during quieter periods.
Head of the department of tourism strategy and research at the CTO Annita Demetriadou said sports tourism is a priority of the organisation’s Tourism Strategy 2011-2015 programme as it can play an important role.
“It contributes to the development of winter tourism and extending the tourism period. It enriches tourism as a product and helps attract customers who spend more than the average tourist and improves Cyprus’ competitiveness in the market,” she said.
Demetriadou said that sports tourism would look to attract teams and people from professional and amateur sports.
“The advantages Cyprus has for developing sports tourism are the very good climate all year round, the modern sporting infrastructure in combination with a wide ranging choice of quality hotels and the well organised telecommunications infrastructure and other services,” she said.
The sports which have been given priority are football, cycling – both competitive and recreational – swimming and athletics with an emphasis on marathons and triathlons.
Regarding hosting football and other sports teams in Cyprus for pre-season training, the CTO’s goal is to help prepare and promote competitive packages taking into consideration the increased competition from Turkey and other Mediterranean countries like Spain.
Demetriadou said that a lack of flights during the winter period can be restrictive.
“In 2012 a total of 112 teams – 67 football and 45 other sports teams – while in 2013 a total of 106 teams – 67 football and 39 other teams – came to Cyprus. In 2014, taking into consideration the amount of applications we have received we estimate that numbers will be similar to last year,” she said.
The CTO’s report indicated that the majority of teams come to Cyprus between January and April so it contributes positively to winter tourism and helps extend the tourist period.
There was a 22 per cent increase in 2012 of visitors for sporting reasons compared to 2011 with revenue coming to around €24 million in comparison to €21 million in 2011.
The CTO is now investing in attracting and financially supporting the organisation of international meets on the island. The most noteworthy of those that have been funded are the cycling Cyprus Sunshine Cup, Cyprus Marathon, the International Limassol Marathon, 4-day Challenge as well as triathlon races. The Cyprus Women’s Cup will also be organised for a seventh consecutive year as part of the pre-season training of twelve international women’s football teams including England, Scotland and Holland.