Tourism minister George Lakkotrypis on Tuesday expressed cautious optimism about 2017 being an even better year for Cyprus in terms of attracting tourists to the island, following meetings with travel industry professionals during world Travel Market in London.
This year looks to be a record breaking one, with estimates pointing to around 3.1 million visitors, 1.1 of which arrived from the UK, with a notable rise in numbers from Russia and Israel.
“These improved numbers are down to a combination of other countries in the region experiencing difficulties and of course Cyprus being ready to welcome the increased tourist flows. Let’s not forget that in 2015, when a number of adverse circumstances weighed upon Cypriot tourism, we still managed to increase our numbers by nine per cent,” said the minister.
He said one of the objectives of his London trip was to get more flights to the island. “We are interested in airlines adding new flight routes, so that we are able to reach new markets.”
The minister said the positive picture did not mean that there were no challenges to be tackled. The fall of the British currency and its negative impact would be absorbed as the tourist industry had already taken steps to maintain Cyprus remained a good destination for British visitors, he said.
Lakkotrypis, who was accompanied by the top officials of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, met with representatives of Thomas Cook, TUI, EasyJet, Jet2 and Monarch, also discussing various issues with professionals from the island that were among the Cypriot exhibitors at the event.
“The island is not offering just ‘sun and sea’ anymore. With this change, along with investment in infrastructure, we have regained our competitiveness,” Lakkotrypis said, highlighting Cyprus’ emphasis on thematic tourism, a strategy he said, that has diversified the island’s product and broadened its appeal.
“Cyprus can’t be turned into a 12-month destination overnight,” he said in reference to the plan to lengthen the tourist period.
“What we want to do is have hotels opening a week earlier each year and closing a week later, and that’s what has been happening with hotels shutting at the end of November this year and opening in March instead of April.”