The National Tourism Strategy's update has recently concluded, announced by Deputy Minister Kostas Koumis, known as "K." This undertaking commenced shortly after his assumption of office in March 2023, with an initial target to finalize it by the year's end.
Koumis now reveals that, within the next two months, the key actions of this updated strategy will be unveiled, projecting its impact until 2035.
Koumis emphasizes three pivotal funds that will enrich this strategy: green and sustainable development, digital transformation in the tourism industry, and the advancement of Accessible Tourism.
The Deputy Ministry of Tourism is already supporting several grant plans focused on the renewal or improvement of products with green characteristics and a trajectory toward digital transformation.
One notable shift in approach is indicated by Koumis during the presentation of the Deputy Ministry's budget for 2024 to the Finance Committee of the Parliament. He urges a reevaluation of the success metric, proposing that Cyprus should no longer primarily consider the increase in tourist arrivals as a triumph.
Citing limited natural resources, Koumis posits that Cyprus can sustain around 4 million arrivals, beyond which the strain on resources becomes a concern. He advocates for a paradigm shift, with a greater focus on revenue generation rather than sheer numbers.
Reflecting on the National Tourism Strategy of 2020, it becomes evident that the earlier target of 5.15 million tourist arrivals by 2030 is now under scrutiny. Koumis hints at changes in this trajectory, suggesting a pragmatic reassessment of the tourism landscape.
The Deputy Minister also addresses challenges specific to the winter period. He notes a significant drop in travel demand in Europe during this time, leading to a corresponding decline in interest for Cyprus.
To counteract this, Koumis proposes extending the tourist season by four weeks, two in March and two in November, in the coming year.
Despite these challenges, Koumis shares positive news regarding tourism statistics until October. He reports a substantial 21% increase in tourism, indicating a notable recovery.
Moreover, he declares that the gap left by the Russian market has been filled, with Cyprus approaching revenue levels comparable to 2019. The optimistic outlook extends to the air traffic scenario, with improvements in connectivity and promising developments for 2024, including the return of the Irish market, additional flights from Scotland, and anticipated growth in the Nordic market.
Interestingly, while Cyprus, as a whole, faces challenges in becoming a year-round tourist destination, the Paphos region stands out as a potential frontrunner. Koumis attributes Paphos's potential success to strong connections with tourism, the presence of universities, and strategic actions for digital upgrades.
Shifting focus to budgetary considerations, the Deputy Ministry of Tourism is allocated 65 million euros for the current year, a substantial increase of 12 million euros primarily due to providing protection to refugees from Ukraine. Looking ahead to 2025 and 2026, the budget is set at 53 million euros.
A breakdown of the budget reveals various allocations, including 10 million euros for cooperation projects with tour operators and airlines, 5 million euros for advertising campaigns in tourist markets, and 500 thousand euros each for the promotion of special forms of tourism and the organization of public relations events abroad.
The emphasis on digital projection is evident with an allocation of 148 thousand euros for the production of digital material. Additionally, initiatives like the development and promotion of the "authentic routes" program receive attention, with a budget of 100 thousand euros. Other miscellaneous actions are allocated 172 thousand euros.
In summary, Deputy Minister Koumis paints a nuanced picture of Cyprus's tourism landscape, signaling a shift in strategy, addressing seasonal challenges, and highlighting areas of success and potential growth.
The budgetary allocations underscore a commitment to diverse initiatives aimed at enhancing Cyprus's image as a tourist destination. As the country navigates the complexities of the tourism sector, optimism for the future remains a central theme in Koumis's presentation before the Finance Committee.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]