UK arrivals to Cyprus are on the increase, and there’s plenty in store to keep those numbers riding high. Rob Gill reports
New UK flights and the reopening of major hotels have fuelled strong growth in British visitor numbers for Cyprus this year that should be boosted further by the increased publicity generated by Paphos’s status as European Capital of Culture in 2017.
Cyprus welcomed 633,000 British visitors during the first seven months of the year – a rise of nearly 14% on the same period in 2015. About one million UK residents visited Cyprus in 2015 – just under 40% of all international arrivals.
The eastern Mediterranean island will become more accessible this winter with new flights from Jet2 to Paphos from Leeds-Bradford and Manchester, and the emergence of new Cypriot carrier Cobalt Airlines, which will be flying to Larnaca from Stansted and Manchester.
Orestis Rossides, UK director of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, said: “Accessibility year-round is improving constantly with new airlines operating to the island and more choice from regional airports by existing airlines, in addition to London departures.
“The major resorts are seeing constant investment in infrastructure, facilities and hotels, enhancing the overall experience of holidaymakers.”
Major resorts that were refreshed this year include the Four Seasons in Limassol, which is an independent property and not part of the Four Seasons chain, and Thanos Hotels’ Anassa in the west of the island.
The former Le Meridien Limassol is being revamped and will be rebranded as Parklane Luxury Collection Resort & Spa when it reopens in late 2017 with 222 rooms plus 53 suites with private pools. The property closed in November 2014 for the multi-million euro renovation.
Photis Lambrianides, commercial director at Olympic Holidays, said: “Cyprus is having another good year. Although there was a slow start to bookings at the beginning of the year, it has picked up well. August was a very good month and September should also be good.
“New flights have definitely helped Cyprus – we have been using Blue Air from Luton, which has been going very well and they have offered a very good service.
“Cyprus appeals to all ages and types of budget – it also has a great mix of properties.”
More winter flights should help the island in its bid to become more of a year-round destination by focusing on activities such as golf, diving, hiking and wine routes, as well as its many cultural and historic attractions.
“More mature travellers choose the autumn period when Cyprus is still the warmest island in the Med,” said CTO’s Rossides. “The winter months have proved more popular with next winter’s bookings experiencing a healthy growth. In the meantime, there has been an improvement in facilities for winter visitors. There are four golf courses, and new cycling and hiking routes.”
Paphos’s year as a European Capital of Culture will raise the island’s profile with a range of events in 2017, including an “open-air art museum” with 12 sculptures and artworks being installed around the city and surrounding coastline. The city is spending more than €26 million to improve its infrastructure in the run-up to the event.
“It will raise the profile of both Paphos and Cyprus as a cultural place, and that it’s not just about sand and sea. Cyprus offers so much culture that people don’t know about,” said Olympic’s Lambrianides.
Planet Holidays has expanded its portfolio of boutique hotels in Cyprus, including properties where the original buildings have been renovated and restored. Commercial director Harry Kyrillou said Planet specialised in two-centre holidays, such as combining a beach stay in Larnaca with a rural experience in a Troodos mountain village.
“Sustainable tourism is also about regenerating areas in coastal towns as well as in rural Cyprus, where retaining village life is key for the locals,” he added.