Encircled by one of Europe’s most attractive shorelines and bathing in fascinating culture, Cyprus is an island nation that continues to draw more and more visitors year-on-year.
Legend has it that Cyprus is the birthplace of Aphrodite – the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty. In every sense, the country reflects these characteristics. Renowned for centuries as an island nation steeped in mineral wealth, wines and produce, Cyprus is still seen today as a cultural crossroads between Europe and the Far East. Situated in the eastern Mediterranean, the country was a key geostrategic stronghold of the region for generations, whilst in more recent times, a north/south divide has added to its extensive history. A range of different influences can be found throughout the island, from Nicosia to Limassol, reflected in a vast multitude of artistic impressions and colonial architecture.
Antiquity aside, the nation is home to scenery that is unrivalled across large parts of the European continent. From tall mountains to expansive beaches to rich forestry, Cyprus provides the ideal terrain for hiking, conditions for relaxing, and a broad range of other adventurous activities. Coupled with its quaint historic towns and vast landscapes are luxury hotel complexes that allow the island to cater to a variety of desires and demands. All things combined, it is easy to see why Cyprus today stands as a hugely popular tourist destination, welcoming explorers and honeymooners alike.
THE BUSINESS END
Post-independence, Cyprus’s natural assets have allowed the country to flourish economically, making strides on a multitude of different fronts. Unsurprisingly tourism is one industry that has become crucial to this economic success, contributing to a large proportion of national income, something that is particularly evident when looking at the latest statistics. 2017 saw 3,652,073 visitors arriving in the country, up 14.6 percent from the 3,186,531 seen in 2016, largely owed to a continued influx of arrivals from both the UK and Russia in particular.
Such is a reflection of the island’s dedicated tourism strategy, and with the public and private sector alike having successfully expanded and diversified its offerings, the nation is currently excelling.The hotels themselves, for example, have played a major role in this, driven by rising investment that can somewhat be attributed to not only their continuous improvement but also their individual alignment with national strategy.
“Over the past five years, investment of approximately €600 million was spent by hotels in renovation expenses, in product improvements, in introducing new technologies,” explains Haris Loizides, President of the Cyprus Hotel Association, explains. “Today, I’m very proud to say that our hotels are a flagship of national tourism.”
TOURISM INSIGHTS: CYPRUS HOTEL ASSOCIATION
Standing as the Hoteliers National Trade Union, Cyprus Hotel Association represents the vast majority of hotel establishments and other licensed tourist accommodation units across the country. With the key aims of not only protecting the interests of such establishments, but also of promoting tourism development more widely, Haris Loizides exclusively explains the role of the organisation and provides insight into current campaigns and trends related to the country’s tourism.
Q&A WITH HARIS LOIZIDES, PRESIDENT, CYPRUS HOTEL ASSOCIATION
Firstly, can you talk me through the origins of the Cyprus Hotel Association, how it came about, and its initial vision?
Haris Loizides (HL): Having been founded 82 years ago, we have been around even before national independence was gained and the Republic of Cyprus was formed. Throughout our history, we have always stood to represent the interests of hotel owners, now serving the vast majority of such businesses on the island. We act as both a lobbying group for hotels and a consultant on tourism related issues for the government.
In recent years, how has the Cyprus Hotel Association progressed, and how has this been manifested in the country’s key regions?
(HL): In 2013 in particular, when all the sectors of the economy were under pressure as a result of the banking crisis, our industry was growing, even in 2013. This demonstrated to the government the positive input that hotels had to offer, and we continue to cooperate on this even today. In 2017 we have reached, indeed, a record year, both in terms of tourist arrivals and in the revenues generated from tourist activities. The spread of the arrivals during the season helped us a lot with the extension of the season which was one of our strategic targets back in 2013. The President has also said that he wants to bring work even closer with hoteliers, providing a seal of approval for the work that we’re doing. This has included mention of modernising the industry, referring to both plans to upgrade hotels and better introduce the use of technology to the sector – two things that we are trying to champion at the moment.
How can the hotel industry take steps to help attract new kinds of visitors during different seasons?
(HL): By remaining open during the off-season or winter months, combined with a new variety of investments from hotels into things such as conference rooms and themed-restaurants, the hotel industry is increasingly becoming successful in ensuring that it remains successful all year round. Currently, statistics suggest that tourism increases are much greater during the low season than the high season, something that is testament to this work. Equally, we try to ensure that hotels remain in line with the national tourism strategy that is outlined by the government in order to remain relevant with national promotion. There have been a lot of discussions about sport tourism and how we can maximise the potential of our archaeological and cultural tourism, for example. Combined, these are all things that will allow us to excel in both the on and off-season, offering a multitude of different reasons to visit Cyprus on a year-round basis.
Can you provide an example of how you’re targeting certain market segments?
(HL): We’ve implemented a long-term vision to try and diversify the Cyrus experience for high-end visitors. City of Dreams is currently constructing a major casino complex that will include a hotel of 500 beds, a shopping mall, conference centre and entertainment centre. We needed to have a complete package that would make this casino a destination. This is what City of Dreams is aiming for and I think from what I have seen so far, it will achieve that. Similarly, we have five-star hotels and marinas spread across the country that are effective in attracting high-end tourists, with plenty more under construction in pursuit of better targeting and catering to this industry segment.
How are hoteliers helping to support the national economy?
(HL): We recognise that seasonal employment is not a stable job for many Cypriots, and that many people need a safer, more career-orientated position. To this end, we have tried to promote the hotel industry as a promising career prospect for young people. Currently there is a shortage of labour for this, but demand is high, and salaries have gone up around 20 percent in the past year – a statistic that should serve to attract more people to the industry. Equally, the multiplier effect is huge, one of the highest of all industries in Cyprus in fact. A study that we conducted showed that only around 10-15 percent of any one hotel’s revenue remains within the hotel itself, with the rest going out to suppliers, employees, banks, authorities, utilities providers and alike.
OUT AND ABOUT
Outside of the booming hotel industry, Cyprus offers an abundance of varied attractions that cater to travellers of all kinds. While surrounding nations such as Greece and Turkey are steeped in some of the world’s most fascinating culture and histories, Cyprus is no different, home to an array of medieval castles, archaeological sites, churches and other key landmarks that all worth visiting.
Meanwhile, for those looking for a more relaxing trip, Cyprus is renowned for its natural beauty and rich scenery. Aphrodite’s Rock along the coast of Paphos is famed as a particular highlight of this, but globally renowned white-sand beaches and shimmering clear waters can be found across the country, providing the perfect location to soak up the warm Mediterranean weather. The food matches this outlook, complimenting the laidback, mellow lifestyle of Cyprus. Travellers can easily find fresh fish to eat across the country, while its national coffees, wines and mezze dishes are equally as satisfying as its idyllic landscapes. Similarly, the island’s altitudinous terrain inland, most apparent in the Troodos mountains, makes it the perfect place for trekkers, while the natural sulphur spas equally offer an alternative venture for explorers.
Situated in Limassol on the southern coast, Poseidonia Beach Hotel is fittingly built around the world of the Greek God of the Sea. Its various rooms tell the story of Poseidon, from its Aegan Coffee Shop to the Neptune Ballroom and Odysea Bar. Open since 1978, the hotel continues to provide premium hospitality to all who visit.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
There are two active international airports in Cyprus that are based in Larnaca and Paphos respectively. In 2017, the two transport hubs combined handled more than 10.25 million passengers – a 14 percent increase on 2016’s figures that provide a real representation of the growth in the island’s tourism.
However, Cyprus isn’t only becoming more accessible internationally. Equally, the island provides a range of cheap and economical transport solutions that allow visitors to easily and reliably navigate its shores. Extensive bus networks can be found across Nicosia, Limassol, Paphos, Larnaca and Famagusta, while a number of these offer attractive inter-city routes. Similarly, car and motorbike rental stand as appealing options. The island’s roads are generally found of a high-quality standard, with a range of main roads and motorways allowing for ease of navigation. The southern, more populated regions are home to modern taxis that are available 24-seven and can be both booked in advance or hailed off the street.Thanks to the country’s relatively small size and the ease of travel, it isn’t hard to see all corners of the island in a short visit if an itinerary is planned efficiently.