'Big plans to boost tourism'

Big plans to boost tourism
Savvas Perdios, Deputy Minister of Tourism.

In an interview with Khaleej Times, Savvas Perdios, Deputy Minister of Tourism, reveals the ministry's big plans to make the country the ultimate holiday destination

Can you describe Cyprus' tourism sector and how has it contributed to the overall trade and economy of the country?
Savvas Perdios: The tourism sector in Cyprus directly contributes around 13 per cent to the economy and indirectly about 20 per cent. So, it's a very important part of our economy. Thus, we have come up with the decision to create a strategy for developing the tourism sector further in the next decade. 
Do you find a considerable number of tourists coming from the GCC region?
Savvas Perdios: At the moment, despite the fact that there are a lot of flights from Dubai to Cyprus, only two per cent of tourists come from the GCC region. Which is why the region features very heavily in our new next decade strategy to attract more tourists. We feel that there is a lot of potential in the GCC market, not just for local residents but also for the expats residing in the region. 
We are also looking to increase our marketing budget for this region and, therefore, working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make the visa process smoother. Now, it is only a matter of informing the market correctly about what we offer as a destination, and creating interest.
Last year, in fact, we activated marketing campaigns for the same and have appointed a regional director who is very focused and involved in campaign as well as  improve our relations with agents to promote the country further.
What new areas are you tapping to encourage a rise in tourist numbers? 
Savvas Perdios: Cyprus has witnessed record number of tourist arrivals in the last three years. We had 2.6 million arrivals in 2015, and last year, we closed with four million - that's about 54 per cent rise. We are very happy about this increase and certainly want to develop tourist arrivals further. What is going to be very important for us is this increase from the new markets such as the GCC. It is not currently a big part of the nationalities that we attract. Yet, we expect a lot to happen from this region in the next few years because the population is younger who are now traveling more for shorter, lifestyle breaks.
What are some of the tourism-related investment opportunities in Cyprus right now?
Savvas Perdios: Within the new strategy, there are 10 specific special-interest products that we want to develop - yacht, cruise, F&B, rural tourism, health and wellness, wedding, golf, biking, hiking, and sporting events. Among these, health and wellness sector is one sector we see significant investment coming in. The mountains are fantastic and the climate is great to heal and meditate. 
Besides that, our in-country marina projects are expanding. A few years ago, we opened the marina in Limassol; by the end of this year/beginning of next year, we have the opening of the new marina in Ayia Napa.
Also, the one currently being built in the Paralimni area will be ready in the next couple of years. There will be further opportunities to invest in two upcoming marina projects - one in Paphos and a port in Larnaca that will be promoted as a cruise port.
Aside from that, we see that the hotel sector has been undergoing a huge revamp over the last five years with the launch of many upgraded hotels. This opens up a huge opportunity for international brands to come to the island, especially those well-known in the Gulf region. 
Theme parks, biking and triathlon centres are also something we are getting investors aboard. Taking inspiration from places such as Dubai and Saudi Arabia, I think there is going to be a lot of potential for transport, infrastructure, movement of tourists within the island. Whether this means heli-taxis or sea-taxis, that will be very interesting to look at. 
What is your strategy for making Cyprus the ultimate tourist destination?
Savvas Perdios: Cyprus has traditionally been known for its beaches. Over the next decade, we are going to be doing everything in terms of marketing, policies and investment incentives to develop alternative regions of the island. The world, and especially the GCC, is going to see a completely new face of Cyprus over the next decade.
Something that is completely unknown, something that is completely authentic and something that Cyprus is going to be at an advantage to show because of the small size of the island. The island is small. This means that if you are skiing in the mountains during the day, an hour's drive can get you a fantastic fish dinner by the beach - this is the advantage Cyprus I am talking about. 
Can you reveal your plans for Expo 2020 Dubai?
Savvas Perdios: We will be present at Expo 2020. I think it's going to be a fantastic affair. Dubai is going to be home to the future and I was very impressed with the launch of the marketing material for the expo event.
It's going to be a great opportunity to see what other countries are doing. We will also be present for the world to see and understand what Cyprus is about and what our vision is for the next decade.
Most importantly, they can understand how the quality of life that we have here is also a huge advantage when it comes to attracting tourists - be it the climate, the quality of food and the hospitality of the people.
We are working very hard to position Cyprus as one of the key considerations of travellers, especially from the Middle East and GCC region. The distance is not far. We have made a lot of strides and improvements in the last few years, and I believe that the degree of satisfaction with our destination is going to be very high.

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