Cyprus’ winter tourism is worst in recent memory

WINTER tourism for the 2007/2008 season was the worst in recent memory, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) said yesterday.

“We are coming out of a winter season that has been the worst in our experience,” CTO Director General Phoebe Katsouri told a conference of hoteliers in Nicosia. “We need to act now for 2008/2009.”

Katsouri said the government had pledged additional funds for winter programs for the new winter season. She said it was going to be a three-year attempt linked with the commitment of the industry to stay open with a full range of services in winter time.

“We are on the brink of danger of becoming a summer-only destination,” Katsouri said. “This is a threat we need to avert.”

The CTO figures were borne out by statistics released by the tourism department of the Employers and Industrialists Federation last week.

These showed that 42 per cent of tourist arrivals to Cyprus in 2007 visited during the three-month period in July, August and September.

Tourist arrivals for January 2008 also hit their lowest levels in over a decade with a drop of 21 per cent since the year 2001. While overall January 2008 figures declined 2.3 per cent, the British market, the island’s main source of tourism, fell a staggering 15 per cent over January 2007.

Overall arrivals in 2007 barely broke even, showing a marginal 0.6 per cent rise over the 2.4 million tourists who visited in 2006.

The Hotel Association (PASYXE) had more bad news at yesterday’s conference. Chairman Haris Loizides said latest data from Eurostat showed that overnight stays in Cyprus were down 4.5 per cent over 2006.

“Unfortunately Cyprus is the only country from all 27 Member States with a reduction,” Loizides said.

“There has been an inability of our own industry to follow this upward course,” he added.

Loizides said last year’s tourism results confirmed the stagnation, “and I use the word stagnation” to describe the situation Cyprus is in.

Katsouri said because Cyprus is neither a short-haul nor a long-haul destination, it had borne the brunt of all threats to its tourism “without yet being able to turn opportunity in its favour”.

Diego Lofeudo, the regional manager for travel website Expedia said Cyprus needed to launch a new drive to boost e-tourism. He said Expedia had 15 million hotel searches a day.

“We sell two rooms per second,” Lofeudo said.

He also said that so far this year Malta has already sold more than they had in 2005.

“Today they sold 400-600 rooms,” he said. “Cyprus is selling 150-200 a day. For Cyprus, now is the time to take it to the next level. I’m sorry but more of the same will take Cyprus nowhere.”