Cyprus Mail

More hands-on approach needed for historical and cultural tourism

By Demetrios Tsouris

Regarding the article on the environment by Antonis Loizou, (March 30.) linked together with a further article “Why is Cyprus Tourism Failing”, (March 2.) by Dr Leontiades, may I offer suggestions for the possible invigoration of the Cyprus tourism industry, which has a huge potential to benefit the economy.

However in the last decade, and not just because of the recent financial crisis, I fear the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), has lost its way, its drive and above all, lost any vision it had.

As one who works in Cyprus illustrating archaeological artifacts for the Department of Antiquities, universities and overseas archaeologists, I see firsthand the magnificent historical and cultural wealth that the island has to offer, now available for the world to view in the island’s many museums plus the ancient excavations themselves.

It is not enough to just print publications for the visitor. There is a need to specifically promote abroad the historical and cultural dimensions – the sun and sea tourist are readily catered for – of 10,000 years of history and civilisation.

It is one thing to organise and promote an ‘Historical and Cultural’ tourist industry but there is a real need for an all important and systematic organisational administration to facilitate and nurture those that have arrived for that purpose.

For example, there would need to be buses or coaches to ferry the visitors to the many sites together with a guide who understands the relevant historical time scales of the island.

Further, in the museums, there could be workshops for visitors to perhaps handle some of the ancient artifacts – hands on experience – with talks by archaeologists and curators, not forgetting the children of the visitors, who also need to be introduced in a creative manner that would ignite their interests in ancient artifacts and sites.

While there are occasional exhibitions in the museums, more must be organised to be more interactive with the visitor. Working in conjunction with Cypriot film companies and television stations, first class documentaries should be produced and be made available not only in the museums – such as the excellent film that may be seen at the museum of ancient Idalion in present day Dali – but also be made available for general viewing in the evenings at hotels and other venues.

There are of course the ten historically import UNESCO Byzantine churches which may have all the above suggestions applied to them also. When one considers the study of Byzantium in many universities abroad, promotion of these churches must be made to those universities with at least printed material sent out to them if not through ‘presentation in person’. It’s viable and sensible, it just needs organising. It’s not rocket science.

I am passionate about the island that gave birth to me, its history and culture but now I believe there has to be an explosion of ideas. Maybe a forum could be set up between the various relevant government departments and NGO’s to come up with a feasibility study to make a reality the massive wealth on the island.

I think we all need to work harder at what we do, do it better and expand on it, if we are to pull out of the recession, we have to pull together and in the areas I am speaking about, a great deal more must be carried out, but I leave that for another time.

It’s time. The wealth is here. The intellect is here. All that remains to do is for an active and viable organisational administration to bring it all to fruition. It really is about ownership of what there is, meaning the wealth is under our feet so to speak so it’s time to take possession, administer and be truly pro-active and proud of what we have.

Finally, I can here the many voices crying: “All well and good but who’s going to pay for all this?” I would suggest, stop the corruption and collect the unpaid taxes, to start with.

Dimitrios Tsouris, Larnaca

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