This post has been adapted from a university assignment, the purpose of this blog is to express my findings about Cyprus as a tourism destination once visiting, the first blog entry expressed my expectations. I visited Cyprus with my university as part of my degree, Tourism Management, the purpose of the visit was to experience Cyprus as a tourism destination including new types of tourism such as agrotourism. The study visit took place at the end of March which is the winter season in Cyprus; the temperature was approximately 22C. As Cyprus is a year round tourism destination, there are flights throughout the winter months with five foreign airlines having routes for winter 2013. Travelling from Paphos to Limassol the infrastructure system was good, including good main roads and motorways connecting the two resorts. The CTO (Cyprus Tourism Organisation) explained that Cyprus has invested in major improvements to the infrastructure in previous years, which was apparent as all the road networks used were very good including the roads into the Troodos Mountains. In 2008 Cyprus was hit by the financial crisis which hit the country hard, all aspects of the country including tourism were affected. As tourism is one of the key industries for the country many hotels and restaurants had to close which left many Cypriots unemployed. It was recognisable travelling around Cyprus that the country was struggling to cope with problems the financial crisis left, there were a lot of billboards advertising land or retail property for sale throughout the country, it was very run down and there was a lot of construction and in some cases half-finished buildings. It was apparent that there is a lot of development in Cyprus, with a lot of advertisement with land and property for sale.

Harbour at Larnaca

Limassol is the largest coastal resort in Cyprus, during the study visit, we stayed in a hotel situated in Limassol, when we visited Limassol there didn’t seem to be a lot of tourism infrastructure available. It appears that Cyprus attracts a variety of tourists with the 3* hotel, Navaria Hotel and the 5* Four Seasons hotel very close to each other in Limassol however with different clientèle. The clientèle in the Navaria Hotel were mostly English, there were also some Cypriots, and the age was mostly older and retired. Limassol could be described as a ‘sunny Blackpool’, a bit tacky and attracting a certain type of tourist. In the vicinity of the Navaria Hotel there were limited tourism activities or attraction; however the beach was very close, the beach quality wasn’t particularly good however it was kept clean and tidy. Visiting Limassol at the end of March it didn’t seem like a winter destination as advertised, a lot of the restaurants and bar were closed and the ones that were open were competing for business.

UN buffer zone Nicosia

Whilst on the study visit we had a presentation, tour and lunch at The Four Seasons Hotel, which was situated 5 minutes away from the our hotel in Limassol, this is a 5* hotel with extensive facilities. The hotel was fully renovated in 2005 and is continually making improvements, whilst having a tour around the hotel it was obvious to see that it was a luxury hotel targeting high spending visitors. The Four Seasons Hotel has a large conference market with three main conference facilities that can hold up to 600 attendees. Cyprus has a large conference market and I believe a main competitor for the Four Seasons would be 4 and 5* hotels in Nicosia however the human resource manager, Assadourian Estephan explained that the Four Seasons Hotel held 4 -5 conferences a month with much more throughout the winter months. As well as offering conference facilities The Four Seasons Hotel also has a large wedding market with their own wedding chapel, Assadourian Estephan stated that the Four Seasons Hotel is fully booked with weddings Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s throughout the year with 8 – 12 weddings a month.

A main target market for Cyprus is the leisure traveller, this type of tourist has higher price elasticity and the price is a large part of their decision making. Leisure tourists include a variety of different tourists including families which can be time sensitive, only travelling in the school holidays. It was apparent that when visiting Cyprus in March there were no families because it was during school time, this creates the problem of seasonality for destinations therefore they need to target a number of tourists. Whilst Cyprus has a warm climate throughout the winter months, when visiting Cyprus it was evident it is a popular destination for elderly/retired visitors to escape the cold winters in the UK. Tourist arrivals from Visit Cyprus show’s that in 2012 the UK were the largest market with 959,459 arrivals followed by Russia, Germany, Greece and Sweden. However in 2014 there are high expectation for increased arrivals from Russia by 17.4%25 and an enormous increase from Ukraine visitors by 42.9%25. An assisting factor in increasing Urkaine visitors could be that Wizz Air the low cost airline has introduced flights between Larnaca to both Kiev and Belgrade with prices as low as €24.99 one way.

Traditional Cypriot dancing

We were also luckily enough to have a presentation by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) in Nicosia which explained the organisations 3 year tourism stragety and ways in which the country is trying to expand their tourist arrivals. When visiting the Cyprus Tourism Organisation they revealed the procedures in place to tackle the stagnation in arrivals, the CTO has a tourism strategy in place between 2011 – 2013, the aim of this strategy was to upgrade tourism accommodation in Cyprus to offer luxurious accommodation, to development the ancillary projects, there were various beach projects which made beaches greener and enhance special access for disabled visitors, to increase their conference numbers, invest money in new golf courses, marina development, casinos and condo hotels, as well as widen what they have to offer by having special tourism sectors including rural tourism, health tourism, wellness, sports tourism, cultural and agrotourism.

Rapid growth in Cyprus with a lack of tourism development policies meant that the island has been promoted as a Mediterranean sun sea and sand destination which attracted mass tourism in large coastal resorts which has been dominated by large overseas tour operators. Whilst visiting the CTO it is clear that Cyprus is trying to move away from the typical traditional sun, sea and sand destination and adopt new tourism activities including sports such as golf, cricket and rugby as well as yachting, a new marina has been developed in Limassol which will open a new market for cruise tourists taking them on short cruises to Israel and Egypt. The country is spending and investing money in new golf courses, marina developments, casinos and condo hotels in the hope of attracting a higher target market.

Wine tasting in the Troodos Mountains

As well as the development of the marina, Cyprus could start offering more water sports and investing in that sector, such as sailing centres including regattas, sailing competitions, wind surfing, coastal power boat races. All of these could be good, relatively low cost tourism opportunities that might become long term assets to the financial infrastructure and tourism calendar. Larnaca and Paphos also plan to develop their ports and increase cruise tourists, higher market, higher spending and increase excursions within the country. The development of the Limassol Marina has already been established as one of the most impressive developments on the European market. This should attract high market tourists with more disposable income therefore spending more.

Cyprus is investing a lot of money in golf courses as it is a large market and can increase seasonality throughout the winter months however Spain and Portugal already have a strong golf market therefore they already have tough competitors established. In 2013 the Cyprus Tourism Organisation attended the International Golf Travel Market IGTM in Spain, the largest golf tourism exhibition in the world and attracted over 1,200 golf business stakeholders (Cyprus Tourism Organisation, ND). Attending this means that Cyprus has put themselves on the map as an emerging golfing destination with attracting markets including the UK, the Nordic Countries, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Hungary and the Czech Republic year round. Increasing the golfing market will definitely benefit Cyprus as it is a year round sport with a high target market.

Four Seasons Hotel

Another sector that the CTO is hoping to invest in is casinos, by investing in casinos this will attract a higher visitor expenditure bringing money into the country however this sector has high competition from other countries. Establishing casinos in Cyprus could be a short term fix for the country it could also have a negative effect on the host communities as Cyprus has a strong religious following. Although Cyprus Profile explained that the village of Kritou Terra, Paphos “wants to be granted a licence to create a casino by virtue of having hosted the first such establishment on the island in the 19th century under Ottoman rule.” By opening this casino it could create 1,400 jobs for the residents of the surrounding communities. The local community are behind opening this casino sending letters to the president, parliament, and the commerce ministry to encourage them.

In 2014 the Cyprus Tourism Organisation and the Forestry Department held the 1st Cyprus Walking festival between 1st March and 5th April; this is one way of alleviating seasonality throughout the winter months with local economies in rural communities being supported (Cyprus Profile, 2014. With Cyprus exploring new special tourism interests, walking tourism is one of those and this is an ideal type of tourism to be promoted in the country, with nature trails taking place in the Troodos Mountains, Machairas, Akamas and Cape Gkrecko.
Limassol beach
Cyprus has struggled to maintain a competitive place within the tourism industry, with no unique aspects that encourage tourists to visit. In recent years Cyprus has focused its efforts on agrotourism which is now a large contributor to the countries economy. Agrotourism is a type of sustainable tourism taking place in rural or agricultural areas encouraging visitors to experience it agricultural life first-hand. “Agrotourism is gathering strong support from small communities as rural people have realised the benefits of sustainable development brought about by similar forms of nature travel”. Agrotourism is seen to be an alternative to the typical mass tourism sun, sand and sea, with visitors seeking a traditional and authentic experience. This is apparent in the Troodos Mountains as they encourage visitors to visit the small villages and wineries.

It was recognised that rapid development and growth of the Cypriot tourism industry was unsustainable, with mass tourism in coastal areas which put enormous pressure on natural and human resources. Therefore policies and procedures were put in place to encourage tourism development in the traditional hill resorts such as Troodos. From there agrotourism was introduced in Cyprus and has been successful in restoring traditional properties and facilities. The Troodos Tourism Board was created in 2007 with the purpose of promoting the area of Troodos both in nationally and internationally. The board tries to promote and develop special interest tourism such as biking, hiking and bird watching.

It clear to see that villages in the Troodos Mountains are heavily reliant on the tourism industry, as it’s a large contributor to their livelihoods. When visiting the Troodos area the cultural aspect was strong with traditional Cypriot dancing in one of the villages that was visited. However it seemed like every restaurant or café was fighting for the custom as at the time there were not a lot of tourists. Cultural events such as the display of the Cypriot dancing encourage tourists to visit these areas as they believe it is authentic. Areas such as the Troodos Mountains make Cyprus a cultural destination with religious and cultural Monuments and UNSCEO world heritage sites Cyprus has an advantage over competing destinations.

Before visiting Cyprus the promotional tourism video ‘Cyprus in your heart’ gave the impression that Cyprus was targeting couples for a romantic holiday, honeymoon or wedding venue. However when visiting Cyprus there were not a lot of couples and no evidence of the luxury, relaxation and night life showed on the video. Cyprus Tourism Organisation (ND) claim that Cyprus is one of Europe’s leading destinations for weddings, blessings and honeymoons as it’s a romantic island. Cyprus Profile explained that data from tour operators shows that Cyprus still has a leading position in the wedding market compared to other European and Mediterranean destinations. Before visiting Cyprus the expectation was that it was a romantic destination for couples, weddings and honeymoons however this wasn’t shown at all whilst visiting the country. The presentation from CTO also didn’t emphasis weddings as much as expected as it’s meant to be a large sector in the country. Although they did mention about going to trade shows in the UK, as the UK is a large market for weddings in Cyprus Although Cyprus Profile states that the CTO is positive that there will be an increase in British tourists getting married in Cyprus in 2014 and 2015

Cyprus is currently trying to extending the tourist period and dealing with seasonal tourism by introducing special tourism interests as previously stated. Seasonality is an issue in a lot of destinations however as Cyprus claims to be a year round destination they should be encouraging visitors throughout the year. Employment in Cyprus is also effected by seasonality Assadourian Estephan from the Four Seasons Hotel stated that the hotel had 500 permanent staff which increased to over 650 staff in peak times. The CTO is marketing Cyprus as an international conference centre as a way to improve seasonality throughout the winter (Witt, 1991). When the study visit took place in March this is classed as the winter season still and tourist numbers were lower still.

In conclusion this blog has critically analysed various different tourism themes in Cyprus and how the expectations of Cyprus before visiting differs to afterwards. Comparing the pre study visit blog to this one it shows that the expectations were different in many ways, by visiting Cyprus I can relate the first hand opinion to the facts. Although Cyprus differed from expectation there are still a lot of positive thing to take away from the country. Although the country is still heavily reliant upon the mass tourism package holiday they are reinventing the image of the country to have a more competitive edge over similar Mediterranean destinations, and by introducing special tourism interest including agrotourism this will increase visitor numbers and decrease seasonality issues throughout the winter months. With continuous tourism policies and procedures such as the Tourism Strategy Plan 2011 – 2013 Cyprus could become a leading European destination with a lot of cultural, heritage and history to offer.

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