Hotels are overbooking rooms by up to five times, sometimes eight times, and are then forced to stop selling, the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents (ACTA) has warned in a letter to the ministry of tourism.
In the letter, copied to the Cyprus Tourism Organisation and to the hoteliers association, ACTA said that unless the phenomenon is reined in, it could prove detrimental to the tourism industry.
“By pursuing this erroneous practice, it is clear that we shall not be able to increase tourist traffic to our country, because neither the larger markets will in the near future dare to increase their bookings for Cyprus – especially now that they are transferring slots to us from problematic tourist destinations – nor will the small markets be able to develop properly,” read the letter.
Overbooking by hotels is not new, ACTA chief Dinos Kakkouras told the state broadcaster. Typically hotels give out more rooms than are available, as tour operators typically do not sell out.
“So hotels overbook by 150 per cent, expecting tour operators to sell about half of bookings, and thinking things will balance out, ensuring full occupancy.”
But in times of high demand – as this summer season – the practice can be a problem, particularly if overbooking takes place over an extended time period.
When this happens, hotels enforce a closeout and instruct tour operators to stop selling plane tickets. This hurts foreign tour operators who have previously budgeted for advertising and promotion.
Already foreign tour operators have forwarded complaints to ACTA.
The complaints related to “several hotels” although the phenomenon is not widespread, Kakkouras said.
It’s understood that in certain instances hotel rooms were booked up to eight times.
Better management by hoteliers was called for, for example by looking at cancellation trends of previous years and adjusting accordingly. But this year some hotels were apparently overdoing it with overbooking, added Kakkouras.
If unchecked, it jeopardised the credibility of Cyprus as a tourist destination.
Asked to comment, head of the Cyprus Hotel Association Haris Loizides told CyBC radio that “the phenomenon is an ongoing one, but before we make an official announcement, we must investigate ACTA’s charges and determine the scale at which ‘stop sales’ exist”.
Cyprus has gained popularity as a destination this year as neighbouring competing destinations – particularly Egypt – are deemed unsafe.
Kakkouras meanwhile also highlighted problems at the island’s two airports, with long waiting times at passport control.
He said ACTA had warned of this since February, in a letter addressed to the justice minister where they called for increasing staff at airports.
He said all the involved stakeholders have identified the problem, which is most pronounced on certain days and at certain times – particularly Wednesdays and Sundays.
The issue could be addressed by allocating more staff during these times.
Already waiting times were long, and expected to worsen as traffic begins to peak during the summer months.