Cyprus expects to see an additional 500,000 tourist arrivals this year, according to forecasts, Tourism Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis said on Wednesday.
Addressing the annual general meeting of the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents (Acta), Lakkotrypis said 2016 was set to become an all-time record year both in terms of arrivals and revenue.
“According to our latest forecasts for 2016, we expect to welcome this year nearly 500,000 additional tourists, compared to 2015,” he said.
Arrivals in 2015 totalled 2.9 million, which was also a record year. Visitor arrivals through to July this year were up around 20 per cent and revenue rose 14 per cent through to the end of June, the minister said.
“This is not only important from an economic perspective but it is also an excellent opportunity to prompt us to resolve problems so that we can reach the point where we can host three million tourists.”
Lakkotrypis said the positive numbers were partly the result of regional circumstances – neighbouring competitors have suffered terrorist attacks and instability – but it was also down to the tourism stakeholders in the private and public sectors who had seized available opportunities.
“The great challenge is to repeat the high performance but with an eye on sustainable development of the tourism sector,” he said.
The government and the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), he said had intensified efforts for wider and better coordination, improved air connectivity and moves to implement the structural changes needed to upgrade the tourist sector.
Lakkotrypis also alluded to the creation of the new post of deputy minister for tourism who will take the reins once the new law is passed by the House. A new tourism strategy is also in the works and will be ready in weeks.
Preliminary suggestions of experts include improvement to existing infrastructure, improving the quality of services and the creation of quality control mechanisms, Lakkotrypis said.
They also suggest changes to how promotional campaigns are carried out, improvements in training across the industry and a one-stop shop for assistance to potential investors.
“I do not intend to dwell on this but I think that with regard to our tourism, too often that in the work of the government, the CTO and, of course, our partners in the private sector, communication is lost,” the minister said. “The intention is… for collective work and coordination to be stepped up, particularly in operating under a new state secretariat for tourism and based on a well-thought out and long-term national strategy for the sector.”
Lakkotrypis also spoke about the increasing number of marinas and golf courses and the creation of a casino resort. He said the deadline for submitting proposals for the casino would expire on October 5 and the evaluations would be completed by the end of 2016.
Acta chief Dinos Kakkouras said despite the good news, there was a real need for modernising the tourism sector.
He proposed proving incentives to hoteliers to upgrade their establishments, to fix a maximum price for a basket of basic goods to curb profiteering, addressing the issues of noise and cleanliness, developing new forms of tourism and improving infrastructure, along with more effective advertising. He also said archaeological sites and museums lacked basic infrastructure, and public transport needed drastic overhaul.
Welcoming the reforms announced by the minister, he said: “The tourism sector needs a general ‘facelift’ that would make it more attractive to visitors. This should be the focus in the coming years,” he added. “The philosophy of sun and sea is not enough anymore for the modern tourist.”