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Would you ever come back to Cyprus?

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Not everyone wants to revisit the island. ALIX NORMAN spent the summer asking tourists why they would or wouldn’t be returning

 Mostly, people love visiting Cyprus.

Usually they come for a jolly good holiday; in August, 86 per cent of the 500,000 arrivals were vacationers, here for the charms of the Mediterranean. Twelve per cent were visiting friends and relatives. And the rest were on the island for business – hopefully with a side of sea and sunshine!

As always, the tourists are largely Brits: nearly 40 per cent of our visitors are exchanging grey UK for Cyprus sun. Israelis come in second, at 15 per cent of arrivals. And Poland, Germany and Sweden make up another 15 per cent of Cyprus’ holidaymakers.

On average, each stays for nine days, and pumps about €870 into the local economy. The Lebanese and the Israelis prefer flying, five-day visits, though they’re among the biggest spenders (€162 and €135 per day). And, at the other end of the scale, we get Americans and Greeks, whose 10-day stays are a paradigm of penny-pinching: €50 and €36 per day respectively.

Of course roughly half of all tourists return to Cyprus, so perhaps we can forgive those who are a little more careful with their cash! Almost half, 47.6 per cent have visited the island at least once before, up from a measly 30 per cent in 2016.

But those figures are from 2019, the latest year for which data is available. And that doesn’t tell us what our current crop of tourists are thinking.

And so, in what may possibly be Cyprus’ most ad hoc survey ever, we spent the summer asking visitors the same question: Will You Ever Return?

“No!” say Peter and Angela, whom we met on the Paphos seafront mid-August. Out here from Glasgow for a week, the retired couple had hit the worst of the heatwave, and were regretting their first-time visit with every sweaty step.

feature3 2“It’s far too bloody hot,” says Peter. “We only wanted a bit of sunshine, not the seven circles of hell! It’s France for us next year. How on earth do you locals survive?”

Explaining that we cancel Christmas in order to pay our air conditioning brought a damp laugh. “Rather you than me!” huffs Angela. “We’ve spent most of the week in our hotel room; even the pool was pointless – I can take a hot bath at home thank you very much!”

Later in the month, at the other end of the island, we meet Adam and Sarah. The 40-something Londoners are sunning themselves on Nissi Beach, and it’s their second visit to Cyprus. But again, it might be their last – though this time it’s not the weather…

“We came last year and loved it,” Sarah begins. “But this year, although we’re in the same hotel, we’ve had a bit of an issue with some of the guests…”

Gentle prompting reveals a contingent of tourists from elsewhere have made the hotel “a nightmare! I feel really sorry for the manager,” Sarah adds. “There’s only so many times you can ask people to keep the noise down, control their kids, or stop eating in the pool. The whole experience has really put us off Cyprus; I think we might go to Portugal next year!”

Further along the beach we meet Karl and co, a German family who somewhat redress the balance. This bumptious clan profess a deep love for the island: “It is our third visit,” says Karl. “We will come back every summer if we can; it is beautiful, cheap, and very safe. See,” he says, gesturing to a bunch of splashing youngsters. “Our children are alone in the sea. They are good.”

As part of our efforts, we speak to other tourists in the region. Mostly, they’re in favour of returning, thanks to such factors as the “gorgeous beaches”, “cheap flights”, and “excellent food.” Although one disgruntled young lady suggests she’ll only come back “without my idiot boyfriend! He got into a fight last night; I’m dumping him the minute we land in Birmingham!”

By September, we’re in Limassol, and meet a delightful young man by the name of Chris. “It’s the first time I’ve ever visited Cyprus,” he says in a strong Australian accent. “I came here for my yiayia and pappou – I’ve never actually met them in person. They don’t like to leave their village, so I saved up and came to them.

“It has been,” he enthuses, “an amazing month! A bit hard, ’cos my Greek’s dodgy. But I’ve learnt so much about my roots, where I came from – I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get here, and I’ll be coming back every chance I can get!”

In Larnaca, 20-something Kasia and Ola are over from Poland for a week. Like Chris, they’re also in Cyprus for the first time, and profess to be enjoying their quiet getaway. “We like the beaches, we like the mountains,” says Kasia. “We like the people – they are warm, like Polish. And we like the food; we eat too much kebab!”

Yes, but would they come back?

“Umm,” Ola deliberates. “It is good to try new places. It is also good to come back. But I think no. Cyprus is very beautiful. But there is trash everywhere. On the beach, in the mountains; there is trash. It is not nice for visitors to see, I think.”

By early October, we’re back in Nicosia and arrivals have slowed. But on Ledra street, we meet a middle-aged Kentish couple with a particularly interesting perspective.

“We’ve been coming here for years,” says Laurel. “Cyprus may be small, but there’s always something new to see. We’ve explored ancient ruins, abandoned villages, hidden monasteries. We’ve visited fascinating museums, and gorgeous galleries”.

“You know,” her husband concludes, “I’m not sure you’re doing your visitors any favours by promoting Cyprus as all sun-sea-sex. Once you get away from the coast, it’s a treasure trove of history and culture. If only more people knew how much this island had to offer, I bet they’d all come back!”

 

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