Tourist arrivals to our island grew rapidly during the last quarter of the 20th century before reaching a maximum of 2.7 million in 2001. The following years saw the number of tourist arrivals fluctuate between the 2.1 and 2.5 million mark and, in 2013, that number was 2.4 million arrivals. Since then, significant progress has been recorded; an average annual growth of almost 10 percent year-on-year, reaching a historic record of 3.2 million arrivals was achieved in 2016. In fact, according to the World Tourism Organization statistics, our overall growth of 32 percent between 2013 and 2016 has far exceeded the respective growth in global tourist arrivals of 13 percent, with a nine percent increase in Europe, and to southern European/Mediterranean destinations a 14 percent increase.
The expected historical record of 3.6 million tourists this year, translates to the unprecedented attraction of one million additional visitors in just two years.
Overdependence solely on the UK market has been mitigated given that the share of UK tourists has been reduced from 58 percent in 2003 to 36 percent in 2016. During the same period, the Russian share grew from five percent to 25 percent, keeping the combined contribution of the two markets roughly around the 60 percent mark every year. Other markets are coming to the forefront such as Israel and Germany with their contribution in 2016 reaching five percent and four percent respectively and expected to grow even further this year given their performance so far.
Even though the number of tourist arrivals during recent winter periods has shown considerable growth, [...] the 2016 figures show that the winter months (January – March and November – December) accounted for 15 percent of the year’s arrivals which, although improved when compared to 12 percent in 2014, still lags behind the 18 percent to 22 percent range which was the norm at the turn of the century. This year’s results are expected to show the continued growth of the winter’s share but there is still some way to go before matching historical records.
It is encouraging to note that from a recent survey, carried out by CTO, an extraordinary 93 percent intend to revisit Cyprus and more importantly, an impressive majority will recommend Cyprus. The geopolitical developments have played both a positive and a negative role.
Gross bed occupancy rate has reached 50 percent while net bed occupancy rate climbed to 71 percent in 2016 and is expected to be further improved once this year’s figures are finalised, highlighting the best performance of the licensed accommodation sector during the last 15 years. At the same time, the licensed bed supply has decreased from a record of almost 97 thousand in 2004 to 85 thousand during this year, but the accommodation mix has been improved in favour of the higher star categories, with the three-star and five-star hotel beds share increasing from 49 percent in 2004 to 58 percent this year while the respective four-star to five-star share grew from 32 percent to 40 percent.
A new national tourism strategy will soon be formulated in order to enable us face the growing challenges. Through this strategy we aim to improve procedures, address problems and maximise Cyprus’ comparative advantages. Covering the period 2017–2030, it will address major issues like sustainability, seasonality, quality, tourist product differentiation, infrastructure and many other chapters.
The strategy is expected to make Cyprus even more attractive and quality destination and to add more value to what Cyprus already offers to the visitor and indeed, Cyprus offers so much.
[…] No doubt, Cyprus has experienced a few excellent years in the tourist sector, however, we will not be complacent. We feel that there is always more to do and we can only achieve this with your help.