By Andria Kades
After years of booming tourism, Cyprus has failed to learn how to keep its visitors coming back and continues to rely on external factors such as political unrest in neighbouring countries, the mayor of Ayia Napa said on Thursday.
In an opinion piece published in daily Politis, the mayor Yiannis Karousos said that there was no doubt Cyprus’ tourism product was of a high standard with beautiful nature and professionals in the industry however the question was if those two factors were enough to keep tourism increasing.
“If there is a one-word answer to this, then it is without a doubt, no.”
Tourism this year will be down, with about 50 per cent less bookings from Russia, Karousos said and the picture was discouraging from other traditional visiting markets such as the UK, the island’s two biggest markets.
Analysing the developments, he said Turkey and Egypt were moving out of their political unrest and had better infrastructure as well as extremely attractive prices that any tourist would want to see in Cyprus.
In conjunction with subsidies for travel agents, “it is understandable how tourism can increase towards these markets,” Karousos wrote.
What must also be remembered however is that the Russian rouble has lost about 20 per cent of its value to the euro and as such “we have become an expensive destination.”
It is here where on the domestic front, we have to realise our own mistakes in becoming so dependent on the Russian market, Karousos said as we are “vulnerable to any possible upheaval in Russia whether monetary or to do with international relations.”
“The more we look at the external causes that result our tourism’s decline however, the further away we move from finding a solution,” he added.
“The fact that despite the geopolitical developments in the region and the increased tourism towards Cyprus that came as a consequence, we did not successfully manage to create a current of repeat visitors, highlights our weakness in drawing up a comprehensive plan for the tourism sector.”
Rather, visitors to the island are subject to a host of nuisances due to noise pollution and “obviously, no special knowledge is required to realise that it’s difficult to convince people that have been subject to these conditions to repeat their trip (to Cyprus) the following year.”.
Karousos earlier this year announced he had written to media and tour operators abroad saying ‘low-quality’ tourists such as ‘lads-style’ holidaymakers were undesirable at the popular resort.
This was an attempt to raise the quality of visitors as according to him, ‘ low-quality tourists’ accounted for around 8 per cent of arrivals to the resort and he did not want the other 90 per cent to be put off by loutish behaviour.
It is obvious, Karousos opined in Thursday’s piece that Cyprus lacks a proper ministry or sub-ministry for tourism, which could have created a long-term plan for the island’s strategy until 2030.
The bill creating an under-secretariat for tourism, which has been in the talks for years, is expected to head to plenum this month.
“It is clear there is no longer room for more talks, or wasting time…let us start with voting laws that will solve problems over the way the tourism industry is structured,” Karousos said.