Sunday 19 November 2017
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The Future is Bright for Tourism in Cyprus

The tourism industry in Cyprus plays an even more dominant role today. In 2016, some 3.18 million tourists visited the island, more than ever in its history. The previous record was held in 2011, when 2,696,700 arrivals took place. UK tourists are undoubtedly the industry’s biggest market, making up a total of 36.4 per cent of all visits. Russian, Greek, Israeli and German tourists are also making a big difference to overall figures, particularly during the warmer season, which runs from April to October. According to the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), 2016 was "a landmark year which will remain in history as the most successful year compared with any previous seasons.”

A new study indicates that tourism arrivals are expected to rise by 82 per cent by 2030, increasing revenue by 185 per cent and employing 64 per cent more staff in the industry. An official announcement from the tourism ministry stated that “For the first time, an integrated, comprehensive national strategy presents not only quantitative and qualitative objectives but a specific plan with proposed actions and schedules for how these goals will be achieved, and by which public and private entities, with a time frame from 2017 to 2030.” The study showed that Cyprus has the potential to attract almost 5 million more tourists, owing to its appeal as a year-round destination.

There are also plans to attract higher end tourists, by offering better service, more luxurious installations and products and emphasising the cultural heritage of Cyprus. Efforts are also being made to identify and protect cultural heritage sites with important historical, archaeological and architectural significance.

The CTO warns, however, that far from being complacent, the tourism sector must continue to take a professional attitude and coordinate efforts, since Cyprus is bound to encounter tough competition from other seaside destinations. CTO Chief, Angelos Loizou, stated that “We received about 200,000 tourists from Russia, and additional 300,000 from other countries, and we lost some because Cyprus is at the epicentre of geopolitical troubles.”

These troubles look like they may soon be a thing of the past, since a multi-billion dollar natural gas boom is poised to reunify Cyprus, bringing vast economic benefits. Recently, offshore gas with estimated reserves worth over $50 billion was discovered, prompting energy powerhouses ExxonMobil, Qatar Petroleum, Eni and Total, to obtain licenses to drill for oil off the southern coast.

Cyprus and Israel are also currently negotiating the importation of natural gas from Israel, with a new pipeline passing through the waters of Cyprus. Signs indicate that Israeli gas may just be lucrative enough to inspire a resolution to the conflict. The Republic of Cyprus is currently the sole recognised legitimate state by the European Union, yet around 36 per cent is under the command of the Turkish army. Both President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus and Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci are committed to formulating a reunification plan which may involve the division of the island into two constituent states operating within a federal framework. Any agreement they reach will be put forward in a referendum.

The gas reserves surrounding Cyprus are an attractive commodity indeed – they have already garnered the interest of the EU and the United States. Many EU countries that currently import natural gas from Russia are keen to work with other suppliers, since Russia used this vital product as a weapon during the Ukrainian dispute. Before ending his presidency, Barak Obama noted that a resolution between Turkish and Greek Cypriots would have far-reaching effects for the economy of Cyprus: ““It doesn’t mean that success is guaranteed, but the possibility of resolving a decades-long conflict is there, and we urge the parties to continue the work. We’re hopeful that a solution that’s durable, which would create new economic opportunities for all the people across Cyprus, is within reach. And it would be a powerful example to the world of what’s possible with diplomacy and compromise.”

 

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