Yet another national tourism strategy was unveiled on Tuesday by the deputy minister for tourism Savvas Perdios and this time it will be a 10-year strategy. Previously, governments presented five-year tourism strategies but their time-span seems irrelevant considering they were never fully implemented. This was the reason why Giorgos Lillikas, as tourism minister in the Papadopoulos government, announced a five-year national strategy for tourism, “with an emphasis on implementation”. Needless to say, the implementation, once again, was found wanting.
Maybe things will be different this time, considering there is a deputy ministry exclusively in charge of tourism and it has given itself 10 instead of five years to complete the project. Perdios also set targets for the strategy, which included a 30 per cent increase in revenue, a one million increase in tourist arrivals, winter months’ arrivals to account for 39 per cent of total arrivals (now it is 22 per cent) and per capita spending per day to increase by 17 per cent. Another objective was for overnight stays on the mountains to quadruple and reach 400,000 per year.
These are not unrealistic objectives for a 10-year period, even though the emphasis on increasing arrivals must be questioned. Can Cyprus take another 1.15 million tourist arrivals? The country will not get any bigger over the next 10 years, more beaches will not appear, scarce resources will not become abundant. Even the target of quadrupling overnight stays in the mountains should be questioned. Do we want to develop the mountains for tourism and ruin one of the only areas of the island that have not been covered in concrete?
Where does the concept of sustainability feature in the tourism strategy? One of the five pillars of the strategy Perdios said was for Cyprus to become an environmentally friendly destination, but how this will be achieved, when we are putting more strain on our resources in order to keep increasing tourist arrivals, it is difficult to know. Building more hotels along the coastline to house more tourists will not make us a very environmentally friendly destination even if we recycle all the waste produced by the tourism industry and turn it into energy.
Sustainability is not even one of the five pillars of the national tourism strategy, which includes the obligatory mantra about becoming a quality tourism destination. Nobody seems to understand that constantly pursuing higher numbers of arrivals simply reinforces our reputation as a mass tourism destination. This is the model that has always been followed and there is nothing in the national strategy to suggest it will change. Tourism policy-makers have only ever been interested in the numbers, quantity over quality, regardless of the negative consequences for the island.