We remain optimistic,” insists Savvas Perdios, Deputy Minister of Tourism at the Cyprus Deputy Ministry of Tourism, when asked about hopes for the remainder of the tourist season on the island.
“But the season’s outlook depends greatly on the situation abroad. As countries move again towards lockdowns, it is difficult for people to find the time or freedom to travel. I’m not even sure how many people living in a general lockdown will attempt to travel. Even though we are open and operating, the options from abroad are limited,” Perdios explains.
“Nonetheless, we are nearly the last destination still open, and temperatures are at 35-40 degrees here. At this moment and for the next few m0nths, we are one of very few available destinations in the Mediterranean and that’s a positive thing we are using to our advantage, thanks to our successful marketing campaign,” Perdios adds.
He points out that the ministry’s successful marketing efforts continue. Interviews the deputy minister gave to the Sun Travel Online and the Daily Mail received extensive viewing: “Europe’s hot ticket: the summer is far from over in Cyprus. Covid cases are low and it’s quarantine-free, so there’s no better place for a late break,” he told the Brits.
Perdios notes that the ministry’s digital marketing campaign has driven bookings to visit Cyprus, despite the current difficult conditions.
“Visitor arrivals to Cyprus in August were down about 80 per cent, in line with global tourism. Yet, where restrictions permitted, and where flights were available we did much better. From Poland, arrivals were down only three per cent! From Germany, only 23 per cent. From Austria, they were down only 29 per cent. From Switzerland, only 35 per cent. So our marketing campaign is not only sparking visits to the website, but driving actual bookings as well.”
The ministry is adapting its marketing to the current difficult conditions with some success. “The good thing with digital marketing is that you can adapt as things change and right now it’s all about adaptability. Our campaign has been to drive visits to the website and hoping these convert into bookings. We have had an increase of 400 per cent in visits to our website compared with the same period last year (May to end of August). For countries with fewer restrictions, the percentage has been even higher, from 700 to 900 per cent,” he adds.
Such success as has been seen is in part due to the control of Covid-19 in Cyprus, and the ability of the tourism industry to respond to it. “We have perhaps the most responsible approach to Covid-19,” Perdios comments. “We not only want to bring people to the island who don’t have the disease, but we will make sure that they go home without the virus too. This is a commitment we have made to anyone interested in coming to Cyprus, and we have kept this promise. For us, that’s the most important thing.”
But the ministry is moving pro-actively to ramp up in the areas it sees as priorities for the coming seasons.
For now, the cruise ship industry is nearly stopped dead. “But we need to start talking to them now,” Perdios says. “In the first week of October, we will have teleconferences with all the major cruise liners, as part of a tradeshow done virtually this year. We will be trying to get them to include Cyprus in their future schedules – should they take place, of course, from 2021. Last year, we could not be included in the future schedules, because they were already predetermined and packed. Now, all these schedules are being ripped up, and they’re starting from zero. Now is the moment for us to go in and to tell them how safe we are as a destination, all the advantages of Cyprus as a cruise ship destination, the fact that we are an island state from which it is easy to fly out should something happen. When cruise ships start operating again, we need to be at the forefront of the decision-makers, and we will be.”
The tourism ministry has elaborated an ambitious programme for upgrading Cyprus tourism. “Most of these actions we expect to put through in the next two years, even changes in the laws, and the applications to the EU for funds in this time. Some of our planned actions may take four or five years to be completed, but the groundwork is being started now, and we have the funds we need for a large part of the work.”
Perdios is shifting the focal points and priorities of the ministry to these upgrades. “These priorities are not the result of Covid-19. They were in the national tourism strategy since 2018. We have decided to bring forward some of the actions required because of Covid-19. But they were determined by the strategy. We’ve reshuffled the priorities of our action plans, because we realised that with full recovery only coming in 2023 and 2024, we have to push in that direction.”
Some new programmes will be implemented faster. “For example, we are launching the Authentic Route in the mountains in 2021, probably in the summer season.” This is a 3oo kilometre pathway which will be digital as well as physical, offering authentic local experiences to tourists.
Another new programme being developed is the attraction of a theme park in Cyprus. “For this, we are evaluating the situation internationally and will see what type of theme parks we could make work in our country. Any such theme parks must integrate nature and the environment. We are not talking about theme parks that are simply rides and amusements and recreation. The nature and environment theme is very important to us and it must take into consideration landscaping and outdoor activities.
The ministry plans to run an international competition for tenders and will then select the offer that fits this vision.