Cyprus has increased the number of tourists by an extra million visitors in only two years, and 93 per cent of visitors say they would return, according to Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) chairman Angelos Loizou.
In a speech to a gathering of industry in players in Limassol on Saturday night, Loizou also cautioned that despite an expected 3.6 million tourists in 2017, the trailing performance of tourism receipts – some €2.6bn for this year – compared to that of arrivals could be traced back to visitors’ spending behaviour.
“While the number of tourist arrivals has been growing, the total amount of money spent per tourist has been declining, something that is in line with global trends,” he said.
In 2013, expenditure per tourist was estimated at €866, a figure which decreased to €742 in 2016 and, based on current data, is expected to exhibit only marginal change in 2017. The reduction in per capita expenditure can be attributed to a reduction in daily expenditure from €84 per day in 2013 to €78 per day in 2016 as well as a drop in the tourists’ average length of stay in Cyprus from 10.2 days in 2013 to 9.5 days in 2016, the CTO chief said.
The expected historical record of 3.6 million tourists in 2017, translates to the unprecedented attraction of one million additional visitors in just two years he added.
“In fact, according to UNWTO statistics, our overall growth of 32% between 2013 and 2016 has far exceeded the respective growth in global tourist arrivals of +13%, +9% in Europe, and to southern European/Mediterranean destinations of +14%.”
Loizou also said that overdependence solely on the UK market had been mitigated given that the share of UK tourists has been reduced from 58% in 2003 to 36% in 2016. During the same period, the Russian share grew from 5% to 25%, keeping the combined contribution of the two markets roughly around the 60% mark every year. Other markets are coming to the fore such as Israel and Germany with their contribution in 2016 reaching 5% and 4% respectively and expected to grow even further in 2017 given their performance so far.
Also, even though the number of tourist arrivals during recent winter periods has shown considerable growth, increasing from 300,000 in November 2013 – March 2014 to almost 500,000 in November 2016 – March 2017, seasonality still remains an issue. The 2016 figures show that the winter months (January – March and November – December) accounted for 15% of the year’s arrivals which, although improved when compared to 12% in 2014, still lags behind the 18% to 22% range which was the norm at the turn of the century. This year’s results are expected to show the continued growth of the winter’s share but there is still some way to go before matching historical records.
On receipts from tourism, he said that since 2013, tourism revenue in absolute terms had increased by 13% in total (from €2.1bn in 2013 to almost €2.4bn in 2016). A double-digit increase is forecast in 2017 alone, which is expected to push tourism revenue above the €2.6bn mark, accounting for more than 14% of the country’s GDP.
“It is encouraging to note that from a recent survey, carried out by CTO, an extraordinary 93% intend to revisit Cyprus and more importantly, an impressive majority will recommend Cyprus,” Loizou said.
“A well accepted reason behind the achievement of constantly growing results and all-time high records, over the last few years, is the regaining of our partners’ trust, many of whom are represented here tonight. We have managed to convince you that we are a reliable destination to help you achieve good financial performance and high level of customer satisfaction,” he added.
Loizou put the great strides in arrivals down to a number of initiatives, actions and agreements, made three – four years ago, based on targeted, medium-term programming.
These actions included close Cooperation with Tour Operators to implement joint advertising actions or incentive schemes and cooperation with airlines to increase awareness and demand, Loizou said.
“The positive results achieved, do not make us complacent, neither have they eased our efforts,” said Loizou, adding that a new national tourism strategy would soon be formulated in order to enable Cyprus to face growing challenges.
“Through this strategy we aim to improve procedures, address problems and maximize Cyprus’ comparative advantages. Covering the period 2017 – 2030, it will address major issues like sustainability, seasonality, quality, tourist product differentiation, infrastructure and many other chapters,” said the CTO chief.
He said the recent growth of inbound visitors, despite some leakage towards non-licensed accommodation, including owned homes, visiting friends and relatives had positively impacted on the utilisation of licensed accommodation beds. Gross bed occupancy rate had reached 50% while net bed occupancy rate climbed to 71% in 2016 and was expected to be further improved once the 2017 figures were finalised, highlighting the best performance of the licensed accommodation sector during the last 15 years.
At the same time, the licensed bed supply had decreased from a record of almost 97,000 in 2004 to 85,000 in 2017, but the accommodation mix had been improved in favour of the higher star categories, with the 3* to 5* hotel beds share increasing from 49% in 2004 to 58% in 2017 (while the respective 4* to 5* share grew from 32% to 40%).
The recent performance of the tourism sector had created a new demand for additional beds. By taking advantage of government incentives and schemes, major renovations and refurbishment works had been completed or were underway in several hotels across the island, Loizou said.
Investments involve development of new bedrooms in existing hotel establishments and amenity enrichment such as health facilities, water parks, theme restaurants, conference facilities, swimming pools and other services. Additionally, several hotel establishments are currently under construction, increasing the total bed capacity to around 100,000.
“Undoubtedly, there is a growing need to stimulate wide recognition and response for sustainability and social responsibility issues,” he added. Sustainability relates to areas of public concern like air, water, natural resources, cultural heritage and the quality of life, chapters that are managed by various departments of the public sector.
The CTO minimum standards scheme is part of a wider programme of reforms under the Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative (CSTI) and the Travel Foundation to make Cyprus a leading destination for sustainable tourism. Because of the scheme, hotels in Cyprus will now be required to demonstrate sustainable business practices that will ultimately lead to cost savings and a more authentic Cypriot offering for their guests, said Loizou.
Reducing energy, water and chemical use, and the amount of waste generated, training staff and having a “green team” responsible for sustainability issues, sourcing local goods and services where possible, promoting authentic Cypriot food and entertainment, and supporting local charities and community initiatives.