By Andria Kades
THE mayors of Ayia Napa and Paralimni have said they are optimistic that tourists from Germany, Switzerland and Holland will offset declining arrivals from Russia.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency after attending the International Tourism Conference in Berlin last week, they said the messages they have received are encouraging.
“There is a 25 per cent increase in bookings made from the German market. Scandinavian visitors are expected to remain at the same levels as last year while there is increasing movement from Switzerland, Belgium and countries from northern Europe generally,” said Ayia Napa Mayor Yiannis Karousos.
He added that the Dutch market had opened up following direct flights to Larnaca which is expected to benefit Ayia Napa and Paralimni. Interest was also shown from British markets.
Hotels have already begun to allocate rooms for tourists from countries other than Russia – a positive sign that has already reaped results, Karousous said. The changes taking place in the Famagusta district such as renovating hotels, creating artificial reefs and sculpture parks and implementing recycling and other environmental projects are being recognised by foreign tourism agencies, he said.
Agreements were signed between the commerce ministry, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation and travel agencies in Berlin.
High hopes have also been expressed for the exhibition that will be held next week in Russia.
“In our area, all inclusive deals in the past two years come up to just 30 per cent. Our aim is to convince tourists to leave hotels and visit sights, restaurants, beaches and other points of interest. It is something we seem to have achieved since most people now prefer bed and breakfast and half board arrangements,” Karousous explained.
In Paralimni, several hotels have an occupancy rate as high as 70 per cent for the beginning of April, said the town’s mayor, Theodoros Pirillis.
“Our tourism should not depend on one particular country but align different hotel rooms towards different markets,” he said.
He cited examples in which certain hotels would only host tourists from one particular ethnicity, causing “unfortunate situations” with visitors from other countries.
Efforts are being exerted to attract tourists from the Middle East, while so far Lebanon and Israel have the largest prospects for expanding the market from the region.
“Everyone’s goal should be to expand the tourism period to nine months and not at the current level of six months but infrastructure projects need to be undertaken,” Pirillis said.