Tourism chief, Savvas Perdios, talks Cyprus' growing appeal

The Tourism Ministry for Cyprus was created in January to give tourism—one of the key contributors to the island’s economy—dedicated focus and attention. The government then appointed Savvas Perdios, a leader with specialized education and extensive work experience in hospitality and tourism, as Minister.

Perdios will be a speaker at the Mediterranean Resort & Hotel Real Estate Forum (MR&H) this October, leading a delegation from the Cyprus Ministry of Tourism, which is a sponsor. In advance of the conference, Perdios shared his insights on the record numbers of visitors to Cyprus, ensuring the sustainable growth of the tourism industry and why the Akamas Peninsula is the "hidden gem" of Cyprus.

Savvas PerdiosHow is the current leisure and tourism environment in Cyprus?

Since 2015, Cyprus has been posting record numbers in tourism, with arrivals increasing by more than 50 percent in that period. We currently welcome 4 million visitors per year to our island, which—when compared to the number of our inhabitants—represents one of the highest visitor-to-inhabitant ratios in the world. The world average is 0.17:1, the European average is 0.67:1, the Mediterranean average is 1.5:1, and our average is 4.5:1. So things are going very well! 

Recent data show a marginal (0.6 percent) decline in revenue from tourism in February for Cyprus, the first decline in 10 months. Are you concerned?

Yes and no. We are concerned in the sense that revenue from our traditional source markets is dropping slightly, either due to less demand or to shorter stays. At the same time, the drop is not immense. And let’s not forget that 2019 can be considered as the true ‘comeback year’ of competitors like Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia. Aside from an opportunity for consolidation, we also see this as a cue to invest and open up new source markets going forward, with a stronger focus on markets outside the Eurozone.

Are any of the wider European social and political issues of concern, for example, the rise of the far right in Italy, the Greek general election this year?

The only concern for us arises when social and political issues in our source markets impact the spending power of people. Lower spending power obviously means less frequent (or shorter) trips abroad. So far, to be honest, the impact hasn’t been huge, but we are keeping an eye on developments.

At a meeting in April you said: The tourism industry has the long-term potential to contribute to Cyprus’ economy by 25 percent.” How do you plan on achieving this growth sustainably?

Tourism has the potential to contribute, directly and indirectly, up to 25 percent to the island’s economy, and we are very clear in our mind about how to achieve this sustainably. We have recently announced our 2030 Tourism Strategy, which defines our focus over the next decade. In a few words, Cyprus aims to increase its winter arrivals from 25 percent to 40 percent in order to spread tourism wealth across all seasons and regions. We will do this by investing in alternative forms of tourism (e.g., gastronomy, agro-experiential tourism, integrated wellness, etc.), new demographics (e.g., over-50s and retirees), and short breaks (e.g., from nearby countries like MENA and Eastern Europe). We are confident that this focus will develop our tourism industry in a way that will avoid unnecessary strain on the environment and our local community.

How do you feel the hospitality and leisure investment climate is across the Mediterranean at the moment?

I think there has been too much focus on mass-market investments in the most popular destinations like Spain, Greece, Turkey, etc. Some of these destinations might soon face saturation in terms of project viability (due to over-supply) and also may face significant challenges with regards to over-tourism. Over-tourism can become a PR disaster for a destination, so I feel that it will become a key consideration for investors in the future. If your investment will potentially suffer because the destination you choose is suffering from negative publicity, it makes sense that you will be more cautious about where to invest.

I believe investors will soon start looking at smaller destinations, like Cyprus for example, because we are not overcrowded or oversupplied and the living standards of both tourists and locals alike are truly exceptional. Moreover, most of our hotels are open for 12 months a year and, obviously, any project will be able to speed up its ROI if it operates for 12 months as opposed to six. Let’s be honest…who prefers to spend millions on an asset that can only operate for six months a year if the alternative is to invest that same money on something that can operate 12 months a year? It’s a question of opportunity, cost and simple mathematics.   

What is your secret spot for a holiday in Cyprus?

The area of Polis Chrysochous and Latchi, situated in the most beautiful part of our island, near the Akamas Peninsula. There you find unspoiled landscapes, truly authentic hospitality, incredible sunsets, clean air, detoxifying forests, flavorful local produce and the soothing sounds of nature. In my opinion, this area is an idyllic riviera with potential to become an internationally acclaimed wellness paradise of stillness and tranquillity.   

What are you most looking forward to at MR&H 2019?

It’s time for people (tourism professionals and investors alike) to hear about Cyprus. It’s time for them to understand that the tourism industry is not only about mainstream destinations. It is firstly about genuine, authentic experiences, and Cyprus offers exactly that. Not many people know this, so my team and I really look forward to passing on the message in full.

To hear more from Savvas Perdios, Minister of Tourism, Republic of Cyprus, join MR&H in Athens from October 29-31 where Perdios will be contributing to a panel discussion: "What's Government Got to Do with it? Travel Policies, Destinations and Resort Development." MR&H is presented by Questex, parent company of Hotel Management magazine.