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15 June, 2024
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Assessing Christodoulides' stance on the tourism sector

Examining President Christodoulides' priorities and unfulfilled promises for the tourism sector

Maria Eracleous

Maria Eracleous

Judging from President Christodoulides' recent remarks on his 100-day governance report, it seems that the sectors of Shipping and Tourism are relatively low on his list of priorities. If those who attended the press conference don't remember exactly what was said about these two sectors, the reason is simple: not much was mentioned. And while the President briefly mentioned tourism in a six-line reference, it appears that he may have forgotten about shipping.

Let's take a closer look at what was specifically mentioned about tourism. "In the important sector of Tourism, which is crucial for our economy, the establishment of a Tourism Promotion Body has been approved by the Council of Ministers, fulfilling my pre-election promise. This body will serve in an advisory role and will significantly contribute to the development of policies and actions for the promotion and marketing of our country as a modern tourist destination. At the same time, aiming to attract health and wellness tourism, which is a priority of the Tourism Strategy, an Incentives Plan with a total budget of €5 million was approved by the Council of Ministers on June 15th."

It should be noted, however, that this specific plan for attracting health tourism is not something new. It was prepared by the previous government and has now been approved. So, what remains in essence? The establishment of the Tourism Promotion Body, a body which, from what I understand, was announced but has not been utilized. So far, there haven't been any meetings between tourism stakeholders and associations regarding promotional activities. At least not yet. In the meantime, the summer season is underway without clear information on the progress of destination promotion efforts and what we aim to highlight. What we know is that a promotional video for the "Heartland of Legends" project was released a few days ago. This project aims to showcase the cultural heritage of the island and develop the inland, rural, mountainous, and frontier areas. This is the only audiovisual material that has been posted on the Visit Cyprus YouTube page in recent days, but it does not convincingly create the desire for tourists to visit these areas or convey the unique experience they can have there. In a Ministry where marketing plays a leading role, what are the moves and actions that will truly make a difference in our tourism? What new initiatives does the new government bring to the tourism sector? Ultimately, what is our vision for tourism?

2023 follows a good year in 2022, and although it certainly presents better performance compared to last year, the goal should have been a complete recovery and a return to pre-pandemic levels, rather than a conservative 5-10% increase compared to 2022. To achieve this, promotion and visibility of the destination are necessary. Tourism cannot rely solely on the automatic pilot and depend solely on summer performance. After all, everything flows and nothing remains constant. The trends that drive the demand for vacations and shape travelers' choices are constantly changing. It is crucial to study and give due importance to how climate change and weather fluctuations affect the popularity of the destination. This should be incorporated into the new tourism strategy, which has been discussed since the early days of the new government taking office.

Apart from the new strategy, 22 other proposals concerning the tourism sector had been prepared during the pre-election period. In total, these 23 pre-election proposals had convinced the tourism industry that the new president would give due importance to tourism. Out of these 23 proposals, only one has been implemented. However, what caused disappointment was not the lack of implementation but the absence of any mention of issues such as finding qualified personnel in the hotel sector, addressing issues like noise pollution and visual pollution, promoting the circular economy, and most importantly, establishing a Tourism Observatory that would help improve the sector's competitiveness. Something else that was not mentioned by the President was whether the Government took any steps to expand Cyprus' air connectivity. Since there was no mention of it, we assume that no actions were taken in that regard.

[This article was first published in the printed Oikonomiki edition and translated from its Greek original] 

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