Cyprus may have achieved an all time record in tourist arrivals last year, reaching almost four million, but the island’s head of tourism is surely not resting on his laurels.
With competition just around the corner, Cyprus’ deputy minister for tourism, Savvas Perdios, underlines that the island’s tourism product must be enriched and rebranded to face competitor destinations in the international markets.
Appointed deputy minister for tourism late last year, Perdios took over the position and is working to carry out the island’s national strategy on tourism by implementing the necessary horizontal policies, the planning of tourism development, as well as the overall political supervision of the tourism sector.
He does, however, make it clear that the government sees tourism as something much more than just numbers.
“The satisfaction of our guests is of paramount importance,” he says.
GTP Headlines had the chance to speak to Minister Perdios during a recent visit of his to Athens. In this interview, the Cypriot minister informs us of the exact focus of the island’s tourism policy and also gives his opinion on which forms of tourism Cyprus and Greece could work together for mutual benefit.
- GTP: Where does Cyprus stand today tourism wise? What was Cyprus’ tourism performance last year (arrivals / revenue) and what is the forecast for Cyprus’ 2019 tourism season?
Savvas Perdios: Cyprus is today one of the most recognized tourist destinations in Europe. Arrivals last year reached an all-time record of almost 4 million contributing 2.7 billion euro to the economy or 13% of the GDP. 2019 will be a challenging year. For 2019 we are even for the first four months compared to last year. We hope that we can maintain last year’s figures despite the challenges. Of course to us tourism is much more than numbers. The satisfaction of our guests is of paramount importance.
- GTP: What is the focus of Cyprus’ tourism policy? What would you say is Cyprus’ strongest tourism advantage?
Savvas Perdios: The focus is diversification, quality, improvement of seasonality, exploring new markets, improving air connectivity. Cyprus is renowned for the hospitality of its people, excellent climate, the cleanest beaches in Europe, its unique gastronomy, modern infrastructure and the harmonious combination of the old and the new. The island is an open air museum with its history stretching back 11,000 years. Cyprus is also an emerging cruise center and a destination for conferences and incentives.
- GTP: What are the three major concerns you have regarding Cypriot tourism? What challenges need to be addressed?
Savvas Perdios: The ultimate objective is to achieve sustainable tourism development, extend all tourist season during autumn, winter and spring, and positioning as a premium tourist destination.
We need to enrich our tourism product and to re-brand Cyprus in order to face the stiff competition in the international markets taking into consideration the strong points of Cyprus, such as the ideal climate, warm hospitality, short distances, location, language, and openness.
- GTP: Which are Cyprus’ main (traditional) markets and is attracting new markets among your goals this year?
Savvas Perdios: The traditional markets of Cyprus are the United Kingdom, Russia, Scandinavian countries, Germany, Greece, Israel, Arab Countries. We would like to achieve better results for Cyprus in Central Europe, Italy, France and Spain. We believe Cyprus didn’t reach its full potential in these markets. Also within our plans are the long haul markets of North America, and the Far East. The idea is to offer combination programs with the neighboring countries so that the traveler can visit Cyprus in a long haul trip. In addition our strategy calls for different segments like destination hoppers from long haul countries, short breakers from nearby countries, long stayers from Scandinavia, families with kids and over 50s from the main markets.
- GTP: What does the Cypriot traveler look for in a destination? Which are the five most popular destinations for the Cypriot traveler?
Savvas Perdios: Cypriots like to explore new destinations as well as to visit familiar destinations to them. Value for money is also important as well as opportunities for shopping.
Greece of course is by far the number one destination for Cypriot travelers, followed by the United Kingdom, Russia, Italy and Germany are also popular for Cypriots.
- GTP: Where does Greece stand in regards to the Cypriot tourist’s preference? Is Greece a popular destination for Cypriot holidaymakers? Which destinations in Greece attract them the most?
Savvas Perdios: During 2018 there have been 540,000 visits of Cypriot residents to Greece. Favourite destinations are Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete and the Greek Islands.
- GTP: How many visits were exchanged between Greece and Cyprus last year? Where are we this year in regards to early bookings?
Savvas Perdios: During 2018 there were 170,000 tourist arrivals from Greece and 540,000 trips of residents of Cyprus to Greece. Until April 2019 tourist arrivals from Greece reached 57,500. The gap between the arrivals among the two markets, proves the need for increasing the arrivals from the Greek market to Cyprus. Cyprus is a value for money destination, offers tremendously much more than the common history, language and religion to the Greek traveler and manages – always – to exceed his expectations and perception about the destination, especially of those who visit our island for the very first time. On the other hand, Greek travelers are not very much fond of the idea of early bookings, especially for “intimate” destinations like Cyprus. Statistics say that almost 90% of the Greek market travels to Cyprus directly, without using the services of travel agents or tour operators, a figure which is based on this obvious “intimacy”.
- GTP: Besides cruise tourism, on what other tourism forms could Greece and Cyprus work together on for the benefit of both countries? How would you describe Greece’s importance as a strategic partner for Cyprus?
Savvas Perdios: There is a great potential for building strong alliances in the several fields, eg. School Tourism. Greek Schools have a million of reasons to choose Cyprus for this kind of excursions. Pure educative reasons are the common history, the blood bonds, the case study of Cyprus for its economic prosperity besides the fatal facts of the past, the violation of human rights taking place due to the Turkish invasion. I believe that the Greek Ministry of Education should consciously encourage school excursions to Cyprus. Let us not forget, that 99.9% of the Cypriot schools choose Greece as a destination for school excursions, so the positive results for both sides are more than obvious. Respective potential exists in the field of social tourism regarding travelers aged over 55+, because of their high interest in Cultural and religious tourism. Our historical and ethnical relations are obvious in every aspect of our lives both in Cyprus and in Greece.
So, fruitful synergies can occur through the creation and the encouragement of common cultural routes for both local markets and of course for long haul travelers.
- GTP: Do you believe that the tourism sector of Greece has potential for investment from Cypriot entrepreneurs?
Savvas Perdios: Yes I believe there is a lot of potential and this is already proven as Cypriot companies invested in the Greek hotel industry.
Savvas Perdios was born in 1981 in Lefkosia. He studied Accounting and Finance at Warwick University (2002-2004) and International Hospitality Management (BA, 2004-2008) at the École Hôteliere de Lausanne. Between 2008 and 2010 after completing his studies, Perdios worked for internationally known companies like Design Hotels in Mykonos and Kempinski Hotels in Switzerland. From January 2010 until January 2018 he worked at Louis Hotels from the position of Quality and Brand Manager. After 8 years in that position, he was promoted to Chief Operation Officer, a position which he held until he was appointed as Cyprus’ Deputy Minister of Tourism on January 2, 2019. He is fluent in Greek, English, French and German.