The deputy tourism ministry said on Wednesday Cyprus needs to start investing heavily in sports tourism, adding that in 2019, the last year before the Covid-19 pandemic, over 5,000 athletes visited the island bringing about 50,000 overnight hotel stays.
His comments came during a joint conference called “Development, Sustainability and Innovation of Sports Tourism Services in Cyprus”, attended, among others, by Greece’s Deputy Minister of Tourism Sophia Zacharaki and by the president of the Cyprus Sports Organisation (KOA) Andreas Michaelides.
“We need to invest in sports tourism,” Perdios said. “In particular, we should turn our focus to sports such as swimming, shooting, karate, cycling and long-distance running.”
He added that Cyprus has started to change its mindset as far as sport is concerned in the tourism industry, adding that the deputy ministry is in the process of laying out plans to promote sports to foreign journalists and influencers.
Michaelides echoed Perdios’ comments and said KOA is determined to take important steps to make the ground fertile for the immediate development of sports tourism on the island.
“We will further strengthen the cooperation with the deputy ministry of tourism to build interest in hosting major sporting events in Cyprus,” he said.
“It is imperative to create sustainable and functional sports facilities, a priority for both KOA and for the state.”
He added that Cyprus recently renewed a deal with Greece for sports cooperation, which includes hosting joint competitions between the two countries.
Speaking after Michaelides, Zacharaki gave the example of small villages in Greece, which often host rallies or cycling competitions that attract thousands of visitors.
“Around 300,000 people attended the recent Acropolis Rally, which unfolded throughout a series of small villages in Greece, as well as in Athens,” she said.
“Sports tourism needs to be recognised as a form of social contribution, as it unveils locations and landmarks that would be otherwise unknown to most visitors.”
Greece is currently drawing up a ten-year strategy that will have sports tourism as a key pillar she said.