Another bumper year for tourism is on the cards, with arrivals projected to reach nearly three million, Commerce and Tourism Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis said on Tuesday.
“The calculations we have at this moment is that we will come close to three million tourists in 2016, barring the unexpected,” the minister told reporters after his meet-and-greet with the new members of the House Commerce Committee.
“From there on, our primary objective is to regain the market share in arrivals that we lost over the past 10 to 15 years, and to improve quality,” he added.
But sustainable growth remained the major challenge.
Despite the pick-up in arrivals in 2015 and this year, Lakkotrypis noted, the goal is for these numbers to be repeatable in the long run.
“Our target is to have more revenues than last year, but there are certain unknowns, such as the average duration of tourists’ visits or the average consumption and how much each tourist will be spending here.”
Government statistics show that in 2015 total tourist arrivals came to 2.66 million. Total revenues reached €2.1 billion.
According to the Passengers Survey, tourist arrivals this May came to 364,943, compared to 307,449 in May of last year, an increase of 18.7 per cent.
Arrivals from the UK were up 4.5 per cent this May compared to the same month last year, and arrivals from Russia increased by 51.4 per cent.
From January to May 2016, tourist arrivals amounted to 842,126, compared to 698,932 during the same period last year, an increase of 20.5 per cent.
Lakkotrypis said that for this year tourist arrivals from nearly all markets are up. The United Kingdom and Russia remain the major markets.
Asked whether tourist arrivals from the UK have been affected by the upcoming ‘Brexit’ referendum, the minister said there have been no cancellations for 2016.
His ministry, he added, is closely monitoring the matter.
“Naturally, we are concerned about the exchange rate of the pound sterling, that is the most important issue. Let us hope that the people of the UK will make the right choice.”
On how the industry can grow in a sustainable manner, Lakkotrypis said the answer lay in extending the duration of the tourist season.
For the summer months, hotels are booked to capacity, and already overbooked for the month of June.
“Therefore, the only way to grow the tourism sector is to extend the tourist season and by improving capacity during the winter months.
“This,” he added, “will not be achieved overnight.”
The goal was to extend the tourist season by a couple of weeks each year, particularly toward the start of March and the end of November.
“It is something we have seen in the last two years, as week by week hotels are operating a little longer and opening a little earlier.”
On domestic tourism, and despite an observed decline in prices, the minister suggested more could be done.
As the government cannot intervene in the free market and regulate prices, it is up to the Cypriot public to report instances of profiteering.
“People also have at their disposal the social media, which they can use to name and shame,” he offered.