By Stelios Orphanides
- But address connectivity, create brand and get your act together, tourism experts advise government
The implementation of the proposed national tourism strategy aiming at almost doubling tourist arrivals and tripling tourist revenue by 2030, requires addressing several of the most critical challenges, including the costly absence of both sufficient air connectivity and the brand.
Achieving these goals would create 47,000 new, better paying jobs, attract €20bn in new investment and double the share of tourism in Cyprus’s economy by 2030 which was 14 per cent in 2015, according to the executive summary of the “Cyprus Tourism Strategy 2030” which was prepared by the Barcelona-based THR Innovative Tourism Advisors on behalf of the government. But for Cyprus to reverse the trend of diminishing returns in tourist arrivals, it will have to rethink and overhaul governance and infrastructure and allow meaningful cooperation of private and public sectors so as to increase value for all stakeholders.
The strategy paper, seen by the Cyprus Business Mail, proposes highlighting Cyprus’s best strategic advantage, namely its climate by conveying the message to buyers that “the best climate in Europe, all year-around” and its single “strategic advantage” – complementary to other assets, including “good beaches, very clean sea water,” and experience in managing tourism services.
“After carefully analysing various different options, it is recommended that Cyprus develops a competitive advantage based on having the best climate in Europe accompanied by three complementary advantages which serve to reinforce the main competitive advantage,” the paper said. “This will require a greater communication effort but will provide better results.”
Since, after security, “good weather is still the second-most important criterion when it comes to choosing a tourist destination,” Cyprus can capitalise its European Union membership and its climate.
Cyprus, which last year attracted almost 3.2m tourists, 20 per cent up on 2015, could see the number of incoming tourists rise to almost 4.9m by 2030, with revenue rising to €6.8bn compared to an estimated €2.4bn last year. In 2015, an 8.9 per cent increase in arrivals translated into a rise in revenue of 4.4 per cent while in 2014, revenue dropped 2.8 per cent in defiance of 1.5 per cent more tourists.
An analysis of Cyprus’s “tourism cluster” has shown that the island’s competitiveness as a destination is “medium to low” which is unfavourable to both investment and “decent wages”. Therefore, “Cyprus should make significant economic and political efforts to improve its competitiveness as a tourist destination by improving its value proposition, air connectivity and levels of cooperation and governance,” the strategy paper said.
Part of the recommendations of the strategy paper is the establishment of a body led by “a dedicated minister or deputy minister” to lead the strategic sector development. Before it becomes official, the cabinet will have to approve the new strategy whose preparation was overseen by Undersecretary to the President Constantinos Petrides, head of the government’s unit of administrative reform.
The new strategy aims also at mitigating strategic risks, such as the over-reliance on British and Russian visitors who make up almost 61 per cent of incoming tourists and buy “sun & sea holidays” from large tour operators. All that has a negative impact on seasonality and the profitability of the Cypriot tourism industry, the paper said.
Also, in the absence of other strategic advantages, beside Cyprus’s climate, Cyprus should offset the deficit with a “unique system of memorable experiences”, and address the visual pollution, gastronomical weaknesses, and the lack of an “internal public transport from the airport”, the strategy said. “Major efforts will be required here to excellently develop and operate a menu of unique and memorable experiences.”
Stakeholders, including the government and Hermes Airports which operates both Cyprus’s international airports, will need to do more to improve Cyprus’s air connectivity to source markets in both medium and low seasons, the strategy paper said. “This is the most critical weakness,” the paper warned.
The second most critical weakness, is Cyprus’s brand or the absence of it, the paper said. Potential customers are unaware of what Cyprus as a destination has to offer and as a result choose alternative Mediterranean destinations, and so, developing a brand is a priority.
In order to effectively address the visual pollution causing Cyprus to look more like a “banal plastic destination”, the island needs “political agreements” in order to regain its “strongly Cypriot personality”, the report said. Improved governance, leadership and cooperation mechanisms are therefore key.
“Cyprus must completely transform this situation by increasing the level of government involvement, promoting efficient partnerships amongst the private sector and creating the necessary government bodies to manage the island’s tourism system well,” the paper said.