Yiannis Karousos, minister of transport, communications and works, and Savvas Perdios, deputy minister of tourism, on Tuesday, spoke of the need to attract ‘quality tourism’ that would endure in times of continuous crises. Speaking at a conference organised by Stek, the association of tourism enterprises, they said that ‘quality tourism’ would come “through the comprehensive tourism experience,” pointing out that “without air connectivity we will not see visitors of quality.”
We have been listening to government officials talking about the need to attract ‘quality tourism’ for the last 30 years. This has become a slogan like the ones they use for the Cyprus problem, such as ‘the struggle for vindication’ or for ‘the fair/just/workable settlement.’ It has come to signify nothing more than wishful thinking, underlining the consistent failure of successive governments to act. None of them ever had a plan for upgrading the tourism product, aware that it would have sparked a revolution if ever attempted.
The fact is that Cyprus has developed a mass tourism business model since the ‘80s and to this day, the number of arrivals is all that matters. Members of the government love to cite the number of arrivals every year and the higher this is the prouder they seem to be. For several years before the pandemic, the number of visitors increased every year, and everyone presented it as a big achievement. Our business model is based on quantity and the politicians know this very well, even when they are paying lip service to quality.
The question is why they bother and why do ministers like Karousos come up with simplistic statements such as “without air connectivity we will not see visitors of quality.” We have not been seeing the visitors of quality because our resorts do not match up to the expectations of the more discerning visitors. There may be an abundance of top quality five-star hotels, but most of these are in resorts that cater for mass tourism. Nobody is going to demolish the tourist strips of Ayia Napa and Protaras so we can see visitors of quality arriving.
We should accept that ours is a mass tourism business model that nobody can change with the wave of a magic wand. Instead of dreaming about ‘quality tourism’ we should focus on improving the service we offer, ensuring our visitors enjoy their stay and will come again. We have a successful tourism model that has served the economy well for decades and does not need fixing. Ministers should finally accept this and stop the quality tourism joke once and for all.