More optimistic picture this year in available accommodation but a long way to go for a good winter tourist season
By Maria Herakleous
Airline companies based in Cyprus are expected to keep 90% of their flight schedule during the winter season as well, Hermes Airports Communications and Marketing Director Maria Kouroupi said last week in an interview with “K”, underlining that there is momentum for strengthening of the winter tourist season so that Cyprus becomes a year-round tourist destination. In fact, this year, for the winter season, 400,000 more airline seats are offered than last year and 800,000 more than in 2019.
It is an important and certainly encouraging fact that possibly this year, we will see higher numbers of passengers in the winter season, compared to other years. The question, however, is to what extent the hotel and more broadly the tourism industry will manage to capitalize on this increase in airline seats for the winter season. Messages from the hotel industry indicate that while there are more units that will remain open this year and into the winter, the landscape will not change significantly. It is emphasized that, in order to effectively strengthen tourist traffic during the winter season, a necessary component is the interest of tour operators on the one hand, and on the other hand to make improvements to the existing plan which subsidizes the work of hotel employees during the winter months.
On the first weekend in December there is availability in 893 accommodations, including multi-star hotels
A search on tourist booking platforms showed, however, that – albeit a small – number of hotels throughout Cyprus are available for booking even in December. Specifically for the two days 1-3 December there is availability in 893 accommodations. These include multi-star hotels, although tourist apartments predominate numerically. By province, 228 accommodations are available in Paphos, of which 31 are hotels. In Limassol, of the 130 available accommodations, 36 are hotels. In Larnaca, out of 288 accommodations, 52 are hotels. In Nicosia, there are 129 available accommodations and 19 of them belong to the hotel category. In Ayia Napa, 73 accommodations will remain open of which 16 are hotels, while 10 hotels will remain open in Protaras out of the 46 available in total for this period. From our search for early December it also appears that the remaining units that will operate in the winter will be well occupied.
There are always hotels open during the winter season, said Iason Perdios, CEO of Louis Hotels, speaking to “K”, pointing out that the number of those that will remain open is around 10% of the total number of hotels. Therefore, certainly the fact that hotels remain open is a positive development, however it is not an essential step for the lengthening of the season and the winter season. Key to the winter season is the improvement of the hotel staff wage subsidy plan for the winter season. This is a plan that was implemented last year, but a small number of hotels took advantage of it, mainly because of its complexity, as reported by hoteliers. A dissuasive factor was also the condition set by the plan, for employment of at least 50% of the hotel's staff during the winter season, in order for a unit to be able to participate. In the last PASYXE delegation meeting with the President of the Republic and the Deputy Minister of Tourism, the need to change the provisions of the plan was emphasized so that it can be used by more units and have a multi-year duration in order to bring the desired result – the operation of the hotel units and the winter season and finally, the improvement of the offered tourist product and tourist services of Cyprus.
An important element for the development of Cyprus as a year-round tourist destination is the interest from travel organizers and the offer of packages for the period November-March. Of course, this presupposes demand, and demand presupposes promotion and advertising of the destination. It is therefore clear that the key to the winter tourist season lies in marketing and how Cyprus will manage to communicate the message that it is ready to receive tourism in the winter months as well. This is something that was also put before President Christodoulidis and Costas Koumis, in last week's meeting with the hoteliers. In the next period these issues will be discussed again in a new communication between the government and hoteliers. Issues related more broadly to the operating costs and profitability of hotels during the winter season will also be discussed.
For his part, Panagiotis Constantinou, president of PASYXE Famagusta, said that the reduction of seasonality in Cyprus tourism is a project that needs a team effort, not only from the hotels, tour operators, airlines but also the businesses that benefit from tourism activity. He also stressed the importance of infrastructure projects to improve the profile of the destination, with serious prospects for the winter season as well. In the case of the free city of Famagusta, he said that things are more optimistic than in other years, however he noted that no significant steps are expected to be taken this year in terms of extending the tourist season. “There will be larger numbers of open accommodation in our province as well, but the number is not large”, he said characteristically.
Have a nice summer
For the summer season, satisfaction is expressed on the part of hoteliers, although it is reported that the occupancy rates do not correspond to the levels of tourist arrivals. Overall for the year, the average occupancy is close to 2019 but has not yet surpassed pre-pandemic levels. This assessment concerns the overall picture, of course, as there are units whose occupancies hit the red, mainly in the months of July and August, and others that were at a lower level. For example, the hotels in the Paphos province fared better this year, while the five-star hotels in the Limassol province hardly make up for the gap in the Russian market, which also has to do with the profile of the tourist they are targeting. Things are better in Famagusta province as well, with most units having found their orientation in other markets, after the loss of Russian tourists. As Andreas Christodoulidis of the Faros Hotel in Ayia Napa reports, the free Famagusta seems to have regained around 50% of the Russian market by attracting tourists from other markets.