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Thu 9 May 2019 08:32 AM

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Cyprus in talks to attract more GCC airlines, hotel brands

The Deputy Minister of Tourism is keen to boost the number of flights from the GCC region

Cyprus in talks to attract more GCC airlines, hotel brands
Kourion is a ancient city-state on the southwestern coast of Cyprus

Cyprus’ recently appointed Deputy Minister of Tourism is looking to boost flights between the island nation and the Gulf, in a bid to boost the number of visitors from the region.

Cyprus is the closest European country to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) area, yet the region currently accounts for a relatively small proportion of arrivals – just “one or two percent” of the total 3.9 million visitors last year – with only 21,000 people travelled to the island from the United Arab Emirates in 2018.

“The potential is huge for two reasons. One is that current figures are not as high as they could be and, luckily for us, the flights are already there. [Secondly], guests from the GCC are known to be high spenders, and we feel we can offer the upgraded service and experience that they want to encounter while they’re here,” Savvas Perdios, who was appointed in January this year, told Arabian Business.

How Cyprus is setting its sights on more Gulf tourists

Savvas Perdios, Cyprus's Deputy Minister of Tourism, outlines the island nation's plans to strengthen ties with Gulf countries and attract new visitors from this as-yet untapped region

Transport links form an integral part of Perdios’s strategy for the Gulf. Fledgling visitor numbers have not deterred GCC airlines from establishing routes, with Emirates, Gulf Air and Qatar Airways already offering direct flights to Larnaca International Airport. Nevertheless, the Deputy Minister and his team are working to secure additional connections.

“There’s a lot of potential to add flights, and this will be our focus over the next few months,” he says. “I want to start talking to even more airlines and tour operators.

Given the four-hour flight time between Dubai and Larnaca, Flydubai represents a key target. “We have arranged meetings with them already,” Perdios said, adding that talks were also being arranged with Kuwait Airways and Saudia.

Hospitality growth

Perdios is also looking to develop the country’s hospitality sector and the Gulf forms an important part of his long-term growth strategy.

“Cyprus is an ideal place to invest in tourism,” he explained. “Even though we’ve been around for many years, there is a general absence of [international] brands. You don’t [tend to see many] InterContinentals, Marriots, Banyan Trees or Conrads, for instance. Our market is not consolidated on that front. There are a lot of individual properties; a lot of individual owners.

“We feel it’s a cycle. By attracting clientele from the GCC, we hope to make it more appealing for global brands to establish properties here.”

Perdios cited two examples of Cyprus-based developments that are taking shape with the help of foreign investment: Ayia Napa Marina, the brainchild of Cypriot entrepreneur Gerasimos Caramondanis and Egyptian investor Naguib Sawiris; and City of Dreams Mediterranean, a casino resort that is being developed as part of a joint venture between Cyprus Phassouri Zakaki and Hong Kong-headquartered Melco International Development.

“Ayia Napa Marina will hopefully be ready by the end of the year,” he said. Perdios is confident that international ventures such as this will encourage GCC hospitality brands to follow suit.

“Limassol is a great place to be right now,” he added. “It would definitely appeal to guests from the GCC. Certainly, [brands such as] Rotana or Jumeirah – I could see them there. Whether they’re talking about hotels, branded residences or integrated resorts, I think they have a role to play.

“Rest assured, that forms part of our plans. It will happen. We are very familiar with [GCC] brands. We have, I feel, very good contacts abroad and it is a discussion that we will be initiating.”

Although the country has not yet secured large-scale investment from the GCC, Perdios expects Gulf states to make a significant contribution to the delivery of the Cyprus Tourism Strategy 2030. “This strategy is specifically focused on special interest products,” he said. “We’re talking about big projects as well, and we feel there will be interest from the GCC.”

To read the full interview with Savvas Perdios click here.

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