Winter tourism has increased by 35 per cent over the past three years and is expected to grow further, Tourism Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis was quoted as saying on Sunday.
In an interview with Phileleftheros, the minister was already looking ahead to 2017 now that this year was wrapping up with an estimated 3.1 million record arrivals.
Winter tourism has however not taken off to the same extent as it can only be boosted by specific types of tourism not related to sun and sea, he said, such as incentives for resort hotels and restaurants to stay open all-year-round.
Lakkotrypis, citing a 35 per cent increase in the past three years said this would grow in the coming 2016-2017 winter season.
“Of course, in absolute terms, we are talking about small numbers,” he said.
In the winter of 2015-2016 Cyprus saw around 300,000 tourists. “This means that the scope for further development of winter tourism is huge,” he said, adding that much of the strategy was being focused there.
“But it is unrealistic to say that we can develop our tourism from one day to the next,” he said.
“To achieve this, several factors must contribute. Hotels and all other associated services must remain open. How will we attract tourists when they will have nothing to do except stay inside the hotel because its environs are dead? There is a series of things that need to be improved for better performance in winter tourism but I believe that we are on track,” he added. “We are looking for continuous and steady growth, without ups and downs.”
He also expressed certainty that this year’s record arrivals would be repeated next year.
“It is our top priority to not only repeat this year’s performance, but also to create sustainable growth thereafter.”
He said 2015 has also been a record year despite a number of drawbacks including the closure of Cyprus Airways, Russia’s Transaero and the severe devaluation of the rouble. That year, arrivals had arisen 9 per cent, he said.
“This year we are going through an extraordinary year, the results of which are a combination of circumstances in the region and the preparedness of the public and private sector to take advantage of these circumstances,” said Lakkotrypis.
“We estimate to end 2016 with close to 3.1 million arrivals,” he said.
New factors to help develop the tourism sector in a sustainable manner will include the proposed undersecretariat for tourism and reform of the institutional framework governing all matters relating to tourism, plus “infrastructure projects that are necessary to help us to upgrade the quality of our tourist product”.
For 2017, there will be more airline seats, in addition to agreements with all of the major tour operators in all tourist markets of interest. “Our efforts will be intensified both in relation to our traditional markets, such as Russia and the UK, but also in relation to emerging markets such as Germany, Greece, Israel and Ukraine,” said Lakkotrypis. “We are also interested in the Nordic countries where we have lost ground, which we want to reclaim.”
“The diversification of our tourist product will help us to develop other tourism markets where we have a negligible share,” he added.
Speaking about longer-term plans he mentioned the golf courses, marinas and the planned casino resort.
“I would certainly like to have seen a casino licensed much earlier. There is no doubt that it is an ambitious project, especially due to the model that we have chosen, which is the resort casino, unlike the rest of Europe which chose many smaller casinos. So we believe this will give us additional competitive advantages,” Lakkotrypis said.
The minister said the deadline for proposals was on October 5.
“Our intention is before the end of the year to evaluate and award the winning bid,” he said, adding that there was a possibility that the winning bidder might be allowed, if they wished, to operate a temporary casino immediately until the resort is completed.