Savvas Perdios, the deputy tourism minister, spoke with K shortly after his trip to New York and Washington, D.C., about the ministry's investment in this market and the need to gradually lay the groundwork for increased American visitor numbers in Cyprus. In addition, he provided his forecasts for the state of the tourism industry this year, predicting that by 2023, tourism revenues will have nearly fully recovered. He expressed satisfaction with Cyprus' performance in destination searches and in terms of guest satisfaction, as well as his clear expectation that there will be an increase in tourist arrivals during the winter.
Recent Central Bank projections indicate that tourism will rebound to 2019 levels in 2024, one year from now. Do you agree with these projections, and how do you see the market evolving in 2023?
I believe that, in terms of revenues, this year will be close to a full recovery in comparison to 2019. We were at 90% last year. Given the airline announcements for additional arrivals this year, I believe this will have a positive impact on revenue and that we will be very close to the 2019 data. I'm not sure how that will translate into arrivals. We know it will take longer to reach 2019 arrivals now that we have lost both the Russian and Ukrainian markets. It is undoubtedly not feasible to replace 800,000 arrivals in a few years, but if Cyprus can benefit financially from less tourism, that is something to be happy about. So it appears that the year will be successful based on the information we have at hand right now. We anticipate that the proportion of arrivals from the EU will rise this year based on the announcements made by the airlines toward the end of the year (Ryanair, WizzAir, and Cyprus Airways). We predict that this year will have a range of 45–50% of arrivals from the EU, which is a significant increase over pre-pandemic levels if 2022 ended with 41% of arrivals from the EU.
Do you anticipate that the investment in winter tourism will have an impact on arrivals during this time?
I think we can say that we are beginning to see the results because winter arrivals in 2022 are at 100% of what they were in 2019. This is true for the months of January, February, March, April, November, and December. Winter arrivals were at 100%, but overall arrivals were at 80% of 2019 levels; as a share of the total, they were at 25%, just as they were in both 2019 and 2022. I believe we should be happy and not forget that from January to April 2022, there were significant travel restrictions and an Omicron outbreak. If we take that into account, it is very encouraging that we received the same numbers as in 2019 and that, thanks to the routes announced by WizzAir and Ryanair this year, we will experience even more growth in winter arrivals the following year and the following two years. It appears that more people will arrive during the winter of 2023 than did so last year.
Searches for Cyprus have increased by 30%
Do you have an overall picture of Google searches?
Compared to 2019, we are seeing an increase of 30% in Cyprus searches, which is higher than many of our rivals. Cyprus had a final guest satisfaction rating of 86%, Greece had an 87% rating, and Turkey had an 88% rating. These top three can be found throughout the greater Eastern Mediterranean region. The guest satisfaction of the competing destinations is roughly 80% if you take Turkey and Greece, high-quality locations like Mykonos and Santorini, Athens, Istanbul, and locations like Antalya, Bodrum, Crete, Rhodes, Kos, etc. out of the equation. It is also noteworthy that SETE (Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises) independently verified these numbers in a study.
How about the issue of improving Cypriot tourism statistics in Cyprus? Where is the process now?
We expect to begin issuing a comprehensive package of tourism statistics in mid-February, after consulting with the Statistical Service. The first installment will cover the entire year 2022.
What statistics will be available now?
The data gathered by the Statistics Office is now being combined with information from the Tourism Ministry and hoteliers. As a result, the data package will include tourist nationalities, daily expenditure by nationality, choice of accommodation, and area. We will also look at internet searches and traffic on the Ministry's website by nationality and age. We will also be able to see guest satisfaction for both Cyprus as a destination and the tourist region.
Prospects for tripling arrivals from the United States in the coming years
The average American tourist spends $2,000, three times the average tourist expenditure per capita in Cyprus, says Savvas Perdios.
Are you pleased with your recent contacts in the United States? What does Cyprus stand to gain from this market?
-What was encouraging about the consultations was how many people were impressed by our presentation about what Cyprus is doing in the tourism sector and the new tourism products it has developed. Our timing is also critical because Cyprus is being introduced to the market at a time when people are looking for something new. We visited Washington DC and New York as part of our contacts, and we also went on an exploratory trip to the New York Travel and Adventure Show; it's an exhibition that takes the form of a roadshow and a series of events in different cities, and it's very likely that we'll have our own stand in the future. According to our conversations with tourism operators there, the most popular forms of tourism in America right now are adventure and solo travel, which are gaining popularity among travelers. As Cyprus, we can continue to improve on the safety front, and with this market share in mind, we can gain points in the future, with a focus on safety both at the destination level and at the level of each individual business. Adventure travel is becoming increasingly popular, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic, and we can classify it as one of the special types of tourism in which we have recently made some progress, such as long-distance hiking and glamping. It is the fastest-growing tourism sector in the United States, particularly among Millennials and Generation Z visitors.
However, there are still some objective difficulties in the field of American tourism. Consider the issue of direct flights.
-We may not have a direct flight, but that is no excuse for not making moves in the market, especially since American tourists visit the region and use transit flights, whether in Greece, Israel, Lebanon, or Jordan. There are numerous direct flights to our neighboring countries, and it certainly helps that our connectivity to London and Germany is excellent, with numerous flights from the United States to Frankfurt, Munich, and London. It is a done deal for the State Department that we will increase our efforts in the United States market, focusing first on the greater New York-Pennsylvania and New Jersey area, as well as contacts with travel associations that will help us penetrate the market.
Are there any specific targets for the US market?
Tourism from the United States and Canada totaled 50 thousand arrivals last year, slightly less than in 2019, but this figure will be tripled over the next three years. These are tourists with significantly higher per capita expenditures than the tourists we have in Cyprus. The average American tourist spends $2,000 on his vacation, which is three times the average per capita tourist expenditure in Cyprus, which is 760 euros.
How much will be invested in advertising in the American market?
In the first phase, we intend to invest €200,000 in various actions for 2023, with the amount increasing over time depending on the response.
[This article was first published in Kathimerini's 'Oikonomiki' edition and was translated from its Greek original]