More than 29,000 people were employed in hotels and restaurant businesses in 2015, comprising 8 per cent of total employment in that year, Tourism Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis said on Thursday.
Addressing a seminar in Protartas on sustainable tourism, Lakkotrypis said that the industry was a central pillar of economic development, contributing significantly to the country`s GDP and in attracting investment.
The government aim was to improve the competitiveness of Cyprus` tourist product by coordinating action between the public and the private sector, he said.
Cyprus expects a record year for 2016, with an estimated 3.1 million arrivals, following on from another record year in 2015 with 2.9 million. “Local authorities, business associations and the local community are partners in the effort to improve tourism competitiveness,” he said.
He added that a comprehensive approach was necessary, along with efforts to develop a long-term national strategy and to create a deputy ministry for tourism.
The minister, referring to this year`s record arrivals, said it was necessary to reflect on the impact of the sheer numbers and search for solutions, together with tourism stakeholders that would make it sustainable.
Green Party MP Charalambos Theopemptou warned against the effects of global warming, saying the climate in Cyprus would become too hot for comfort, water problems would intensify and the country would lose much of its vegetation while resorts in other places such as the south of England will open up.
He also talked about the destruction of the environment by “boats, safari vehicles, motorbikes, quad bikes and rental cars which literally plough through various beaches including Akamas.”
MEP Lefteris Christoforou was in favour of a growth in numbers.
We have stayed unchanged both in revenue and tourist arrivals for years while at the same time international tourism increased by six per cent annually. If Cyprus had followed this trend we would have 4.3 million tourist arrivals per year by now instead of three, he said.
“If we want tourism in Cyprus to last for more than eight months a year and to extend winter tourism, we need to develop alternative forms of tourism, such as tourism of special interest, i.e. sports, congress, medical, cultural and religious; all of these areas will boost winter tourism,” he added.
Christophoros Christodoulides, speaking on behalf of the president of the Open University of Cyprus, said that tourism and related activities played a vital role in the region`s economic development. Sustainability of resources requires an holistic approach on all levels, he added.
Annita Demetriadou from the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) said that sustainability must be a guiding principle in all policies and actions regarding this very competitive sector, taking into account its immediate impact on the viability of Cypriot tourism itself.
The president of the union of Cyprus municipalities, Alexis Galanos said that mass tourism still characterised the majority of arrivals in Cyprus, which has various consequences on the island`s resources. He added that local authorities needed to keep working with the industry to intensify efforts to promote Cyprus` tourism product and its unique advantages.
The seminar was organized by the European Parliament Office in Cyprus, CTO and the Open University of Cyprus, under the aegis of the ministry of tourism and with the cooperation of local authorities. CNA was the event`s media sponsor.