By Andrew Rosenbaum
What is the way forward for tourism in Cyprus? Most experts agree that there is a need to become less dependent on mass market tourism and the large tour operators who service it.
But how can tourism be diversified?
“There are a whole series of specific practical changes we can make without delay that would help make Cyprus into an upmarket, luxury destination,” said Kratinos Socratous, director of sales and marketing at the Parklane, a luxury resort and spa in Limassol, which is among the finest on the island.
Socratous himself has worked in high-end Cyprus tourism for most of his career, and so he has first-hand know-how about how to attract high-net-worth tourists.
“Our deputy minister of tourism, Savvas Perdios, and his team are doing a good job managing the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in presently. After all, what we have gone through this year on a global scale was not written in the script!” commented Socratous.
“However, it’s time to diversify, to limit the reliance of Cyprus tourism on ‘sun-and-sea’ only. Luxury travellers today want authenticity, they want genuine hospitality and they want to meet real people. There are in fact practical solutions that will make all these things possible.”
Socratous pointed out that Cyprus already has the infrastructure to attract this niche market, including new airport buildings in Larnaca and Paphos and a new passenger seaport terminal in Limassol, ideal for the luxury cruise liner industry. Then there are the Limassol and Agia Napa marinas with dining and shopping experiences, championship standard golf courses, such as the one at Aphrodite Hills, the C2 Cyprus Casino, and last but not least, new hotels such as the Parklane in Limassol and the planned new Grand Hyatt.
But Socratous pointed to the need for additional attractions.
“An internationally branded theme park would work brilliantly in Cyprus,” Socratous suggested, “particularly given that we have months of summer. As we know, other than the waterparks, there is a serious shortage of organised activities for children of all ages. This would attract additional business from our regional feeder markets and would extend our summer season further. The government should invest in this, find land to offer the branded park, and offer incentives for it.”
Upmarket tourism also needs a brand spokesperson he said. “We should find an actor, or a tennis player, or a footballer who can represent high-end tourism on the island and make it well-known.”
The tourism ministry is already working on ways to attract upmarket tourism, for example, promoting tourism in wine or golf, or other areas in which Cyprus excels. “Wineries in Cyprus should be promoted for their high quality, particularly with respect to local varieties that are not available abroad,” Socratous said. “This will bring in the highest level of wine drinker, one who will buy fine wines in quantity here, and then wineries should ship them back to his/her home.”
Socratous said that the Dubai port authority, which runs the port in Limassol, is doing a superb job, able to bring in a cruise ship every other day, adding that it should become a turnaround location for luxury cruise liners, meaning that passengers will begin or end their cruise there.
“Typically, high-end tourists spend one week on a cruise, and then one week at a destination, so that a number of them will come to stay in our hotels, dine in our restaurants, etc.”
Then, there are diverse issues involving transportation. “First, when high-end travellers arrive, there is a need for a fast-track service – many other countries offer this service. There is a need for a commercial helicopter service to transfer guests from our two airports to/from our luxury hotels, and with the ability to have their flight plans approved at short notice. The standard of private road transport still does not meet the needs of the discerning traveller which new technologically advanced vehicles require.”
This is not a comprehensive list, Socratous said, but there is one more aspect worth noting: the mountains.
“The Troodos mountains region with its fantastic scenery, new and existing boutique hotels, traditional restaurants, modern wineries, monasteries, nature trails, must be promoted more. This offers a chance for authentic experiences for high-end travellers that must become better known.” In fact, the deputy tourism ministry is at work on this, with an authentic route soon to be named in the Troodos.
“But what’s clear is that you have to choose. You do not have to abandon mass-market tourism, but you do have to make a concerted decision to have upmarket tourism. Cyprus cannot compete with Turkey and Greece for the mass market. It’s time to adapt our image to luxury travel and bring in fewer tourists who spend more.”