Cyprus – The State of Tourism
Cyprus tourism, from all accounts, seems to be heading in the wrong direction. Not a week goes by that I don't hear or read an article about how tourism is in a desperate state. There is always at least one crazy idea on how this crisis can be reversed. I say crazy because I have heard many really silly solutions. Also, not many authority figures who are in the position to help fix the problem, such as the Cyrus Tourism Organization (CTO), comes close to the real causes of why many tourists are leaving our beautiful island feeling disappointed and deceived.
The Cyprus governmental statistics show that tourism has actually reached a plateau rather than plummeted as many are suggesting. Through November of this year Cyprus is actually on par with last year's numbers. In the brief time that I have lived in Cyprus I have been entertained with the following solutions to fix the “tourism problem”. One of the ways to improve tourism was going to start with renaming the two airports from Larnaca and Paphos to Zeus and Aphrodite. The point of that would be what? To portray the image that tourists are coming to a fantasy, mythical Greek island? According to a Cyprus Mail article dated 19 October, 2004 Larnaca airport was voted ‘most disappointing’ in a global survey of 25,000 British holidaymakers, a position that is not likely to improve for at least five years when the island’s new international airport is built. Hopefully, the new airport will portray a better image than the current airport because arriving at a slightly improved airport with a new name just won’t cut it!
Cyprus also definitely needs more diversity in order to attract tourists with varied interests, income levels and need. Perhaps the quality of tourists has declined and that is why locals are complaining. Many of the tourists we do get are looking for more of a bargain so "5 star resorts" and high priced restaurants are suffering. Cyprus is actually much more expensive than many tourists would expect and year after year it is getting much more expensive. If a tourist comes back for a second holiday 3 years after his first he would be shocked by how the prices have increased. We can't neglect the smaller spenders though as we need everyone to come back again and again. I personally never visited a place where both high and lower income segments were not catered to.
A recent article about tourism I read in the Cyprus Weekly writes that flights are too expensive because we are so far away from Europe and then at the end of the article it quotes the CTO's chief talking about the north that says "It is a new competitor and we have to find ways to stop tourists from going to the occupied areas." I think we need to have the alternative spin on it which is how to find ways to get tourists here, keep them here and keep them coming back and to tell friends to visit.
Another recent article in the Cyprus Weekly discusses the retaking of the Polis camping site from the Cyprus Tourism Organization because they gave up. The mayor of Polis obviously sees the CTO’s refusal to continue to run it and says it is a "negative move on behalf of the CTO to abandon this market.” I would personally nominate the mayor of Polis to run the CTO. He says about the Polis camp site: "We know how popular the site is and we couldn't let it go after the CTO decided it didn't want to run it anymore ..... We plan to put proper roads and paths into place... improve the toilets... make sure the roads and paths are fixed to the point of people not getting stuck in mud and potholes." He also plans to use existing water to create a lake with fish and ducks.
This solution lies in making the changes and realizing that change is a necessary part of today and the future. Adjust, keep adjusting and never stop because the competition will always change. So what changes do we need to make? What are we missing? I believe surveys given to the tourists upon arrival asking some of the following questions: Why did you come here? What made you choose Cyprus as a holiday destination? What is your income level and educational level? And then on departure: How was your stay? What would make it better? Would you come back again? These sorts of surveys will let us learn about our current market as well as catering accurately for our potential market.
The inside-out-approach which is best described in a slogan that Zeneth Electronics Corporation has used for decades "Quality goes in before the name goes on." In respect to Cyprus tourism, we have to take care of all the things that make it a good place to live for the locals and it will help tourism. When the world hears that we have the highest vehicle death rate that will not help tourism. When you take a baby in a stroller for a walk and you run out of pavement that's a problem. There are also practically no handicap accessible venues here. Wheelchair accessibility is a huge problem here and Cyprus is missing out on that market because of it. You have to consider that all areas in Cyprus are potential tourist areas and every street should have a pavement. The on going Cyprus problem between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots also has an effect on tourism, many of the properties that are owned by the Turkish citizens are left vacant and the properties are very old and falling apart and un-attractive, they also stop from having a cohesive theme.
The outside-in approach is seeing Cyprus through the eyes of the people who have never been to the island. What is the picture in their mind before they arrive? Do they see Cyprus as a lover’s paradise to escape to? What image do we want to install in and how do we get this image across effectively? There is a message going out, I have seen the Cyprus commercials on televisions in the US and the Middle East. I am not sure of how often they are being played in the EU markets or if they are getting the proper amount of play in the right places. It is easy to spend money on bad advertising and not know it. A holiday maker or any customer that believes they have been deceived by a business or a ad may never complain or say anything to anyone, they will simply never give you his business again and won't recommend you to any of his friends or family. We simply have to make sure to treat everyone how we would like to be treated if we were to go far from home to spend some quality time with our loved ones, whether they are here with a lot of money to spend or not. The people in charge of tourism and others in the industry all need to be held accountable for their actions.