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Our View: Sustainability must be at the heart of any tourism strategy

Savvas Perdios , Deputy Minister of Tourism

THE NATIONAL Tourism Strategy will soon be finalised, said the Deputy Minister for Tourism Savvas Perdios, addressing an event of the Cyprus Hoteliers’ Association last week.

This will be the fourth or fifth tourism strategy announced by a Cyprus government over the years, none of which were ever implemented. They were nothing more than theoretical documents, examples of wishful thinking that the authorities had neither the determination nor the commitment to put into practice.

Aware of the traditional failure to put tourism strategies into practice, when Giorgos Lillikas was commerce and tourism minister in Papadopoulos government, he – rather surrealistically – announced a tourism strategy “with an emphasis on implementation”. But apart from giving licences for golf courses, most of which proved unviable and have been taken over by a bank because the developers could not repay their loans, the rest of the strategy did not materialise, despite the emphasis on implementation.

Perhaps now there is a deputy ministry for tourism things will be different, though from what Perdios has been saying the thinking underpinning the new tourism strategy is the same as it has always been: a focus on continuous growth. In its strategy the deputy ministry would target increasing Cyprus’ connectivity which means flights from new markets and ‘enriching the tourism product’, which we have been hearing for decades. At least Perdios has not mentioned the pipe dream of quality tourism.

What never seems to be included in the grandiose tourism strategies is the principle of sustainability that includes protecting our environment and rationally managing limited resources, considering the effects on our quality of life by constantly increasing numbers of tourist arrivals. The tourism industry follows the general development model of continuous growth, regardless of the consequences. The island is being covered in concrete so we can accommodate more tourists and sell more luxury homes to more people wanting passports.

There is no measure in this development model, no consideration of the long-term consequences for the citizens of the island. For instance, a few years ago we had to live with water cuts while there were half a dozen loss-making golf courses taking huge quantities of water at cut rates because we had to upgrade our tourism product and developers wanted to sell more holiday villas. Beaches locals have access to are becoming fewer as they are being taken over by hotels.

There are countless examples of how this growth model is adversely affecting the quality of life of the local population, which is why sustainability must be at the centre of the national strategy for tourism. After years of uncontrolled growth of tourism and construction, some limits must be set within this new strategy.

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