Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Have a glass of Wine in Cyprus

I have recently had a very nice chat with an expert in Tourism who is very sensitive to how sustainable is the tourism activity. Someone who I respect very much and who I strongly believe his views are valid and very reasonable. Views I share and I find extremely easy to understand and follow.

During our relaxed chat I have realised that he has been around in Cyprus and at one point he was disturbed by the fact that in a traditional Cypriot taverna he has been offered South American wine. Nothing wrong with wines from Argentina or Chile but those wines, he said, are to be drunk in the adequate places. Can you imagine how much gasoline was spent to bring me this bottle of wine all the way from South America in order to drink it with Cypriot Meze?, he added.

This comment made me go back in the beginning of the nineties when an official from the state (hygienic inspection) visited my family’s stone built hotel in Pafos, to make a hygiene  inspection. On his report, he wrote down that the hotel was not “up to European standards” since the bread the hotel offered was made in wood oven and without proper installations. This report went on and on for months until the authorities got tired .  The bread was made by my grandmother, (today aged 87), who was kneading the dough in a wooden kneading container (see picture here), fermenting covered in white cotton cloths and baked in wood oven at the summer restaurant of the hotel.

Today, 20 years later, I realised how idiot the inspector was and how ignorant we were to let him step in our traditions, I realised that the Europeanization of the Cypriot tourism industry went down the wrong path just because of idiotic reactions and guidelines.

I feel that my friend was very right to be disturbed for having to drink South American wine, I feel that he is very right when he stresses out that sustainability is tradition and that tradition is authenticity. I feel that we deliberately lost those two very important elements in Cyprus, but I also know is totally feasible to recover them fast enough in order to get back on the right track. The question is who is going to start the “fire” first. When I volunteered long ago to do it, some people thought I went crazy, today I know they are the ones who went crazy so I keep the “fire” on waiting for you to join me for a glass of red wine probably from the hills of Paphos, from Vouni Panayias.

Larnaca Airport, the only jewel

The unfortunate black-out of the runways in Larnaca Airport has created in my opinion too much noise. Hermes Airports has proven to be an efficient and very responsible company delivering without one day of delay 2 brand new airports for Cyprus according to the planed and signed schedule.

Hermes airports is the only company who made Cypriots proud the last years. The international airports of Paphos (PFO) and Larnaca (LCA) are definitely the only jewel on the Cypriot Crown. The Republic of Cyprus has never been able to deliver any public work without creating a wave of corruption scandals (I remind you XEKTE who built the highway Nicosia – Limassol and many other scandals that have also been pointed in various reports throughout the years) , the 2 airports have been the only public works that have actually finished on time and worked on time sine the independence of Cyprus.

The operation of the two airports is not an easy job, accidents and unfortunate happenings will happen until the “intestine” of the airports is smooth.  I was present at a major black-out of the Boston airport due to extreme weather conditions, I was also “captured” by extreme weather in London Heathrow that caused serious problems in the operation of the Airport but I did not experiment the criticism of the politicians.
Cypriot politicians should not make any comment, on the contrary they should think that they live in a “glass house” and a minor stone could demolish it. Politicians in Cyprus have managed in 30 years to convince the Cypriot citizens, that when it comes to public works are incapable to bring them to a good port.

If I were a political figure in Cyprus I would go out and ask for forgiveness for not doing my job for so many years.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays, and let's make more out of 2010

Instead of wishing for your wishes
to come true,

Make wishes true!!!

Every 9 seconds someone gets closer to making their wishes a reality. Onward looking to 2010, optimism and courage will be required, and at avantless we wanted to anticipate 2010 contributing with a message of hope for those who have made a personal decision to change their life through entrepreneurship and or by teaming up in a entrepreneurial group.

To make our action count, we have joined forces with KIVA , a lending system that allows you to determine who to lend a hand. Whether it’s a baker in Afghanistan, a hotelier in Peru, or a restaurateur in Cambodia, we believe that this is a powerful means to empower someone to aim for self-sustaining independence.

As in any lending system, you get your money back and choose later to keep reinvesting. As the loans made out by Avantless Development fund in 2009 have all been repaid in full – Yes 100%; this shows the integrity and the honesty of those who use those loans. 25 Dollars for us is probably a coffee with friends, but for many people it can mean a difference of a lifetime on earth.

Join the avantless to strengthen the EMERGENCE team on KIVA and make your 25 Dollar loan and change people’s life.

Merry Christmas to all and let’s make more out of 2010.

Warmest regards 

To help improve a more sustainable tourism model, I decided  not to send any  paper Christmas cards.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Libra holidays, Allbury Travel Group and E-Clear the end of story

I hate predicting bad news. Two months ago my intuition and the market made me think that Allbury Travel group was going to go down the drain taking with them customers and suppliers and so I published it here

The websites of the group are already down and they stop selling those destinations the group used to have in its portfolio. The hotels in Greece, Turkey, Cyprus etc. are getting nervous, the handing agents are hitting their heads and the authorities keep silent.

The perfect excuse is the financial crisis; the reality though is still to be proven. I am sorry to see that once again the law and its guardians are unable to stop fraud. What is going to happen now? Are they going to come back with a new name? New directors? New image? This is a movie we saw again.
Anyway this was a nasty Christmas present for the 100 passengers in destinations and the 4000 customers that made bookings with them.

My only advice to hotels and suppliers is to revise their collaborators, look at their contacts and make sure they have all the guarantees in place locally as well. Allbury Travel Group has never obtained any kind of licence in Cyprus for example and they had contracts with many hotels.

According to the Daily Telegraph there is more to that, it seems that the Greek Elias Elia, E-Clear's chief executive is understood to have a controlling stake in Allbury's parent company. Allbury has also been linked to the card-payment processor under examination by the administrators of Globespan.

PricewaterhouseCoopers is pursuing E-Clear to find out why the company held back more than £30m owed to Globespan, the owner of Flyglobespan.com, which operated flights from Scotland to holiday destinations such as Spain.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Business Meetings in Cyprus

When we are looking for a place for business meetings most of the times we think of business environment. Cyprus meetings industry offers a unique scenery for business meetings. Away from the tight corporate environment close to the splendid Mediterranean sea and the green Mediterranean forest, away from high traffic streets and far from stressful situations.

During the EIBTM 2009 in Barcelona, Cyprus presented the wide offer of accommodation, mmeting facilities and activities the meeting consumer can enjoy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What if Cyprus had a Plan also in the Tourism Sector ?

The question raised here is if in Cyprus we have any kind of plan. It is clear that the answer is NO. This is very easy to confirm just by asking people of any political colour, of any economical power; all of them will tell you that we have actually never have had a plan. Cyprus’ economy is small, conservative, monopolist and overprotective. For those reasons we have been rebuked many times by the European Union.

Some days ago we have experienced a wave of gratefulness towards Mr. Antonis Paschalides, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, for the renewal of the “measures to boost tourism”. This extraordinary gratefulness came from all the professional associations; from hoteliers (two associations), the travel agents – tour operators, the restaurateurs and all the others who are involved in tourism. After the announcement of Mr. Paschalides that the measures would be on for one more year,  most of the grateful hospitality leaders and followers  took the flight to the World Travel Market in London (WTM 2009) in order to “fight” with Turkey, Greece, Dubai, Tunisia, Egypt, Malta, Seychelles …

They went there armed with “short-range weapons”, with “weapons loaded ammunition with a short expiry date”, winter 2010. Nobody had in his briefcase Quality as a  proposal, nobody was able to offer something new to the end user-tourist, nobody was able to talk of change,  change in “navigation”, nobody was able to touch the deeper problem in tourism in a courageous manner.

The lack of Leadership in Tourism in Cyprus is very obvious, I mean lack of business leadership, political one we have plenty, we could give some away. We lack of leaders who can dream of a sustainable tourism industry, of a healthy tourism destination, of a destination that wants to achieve high customer satisfaction. The customer Satisfaction Survey contacted by the University of Cyprus and the Cyprus Tourism Organisation points out among others that the  substandard infrastructure (e.g. pedestrian and cycling facilities, parking spaces, public restrooms) was the tourist product component that dissatisfied tourists the most. No signs of improvement were recorded in recent years. Drastic corrective measures such as the construction of pedestrian and cycling facilities, especially in tourist areas, should be given priority.

“All the great walks start with the fist step”, (Lao Tse China 6th century B.C). In the tourist industry in Cyprus nobody makes this first step, nobody wants to be exposed in the “cold” of Innovation; nobody wants to be exposed to the “radioactivity” of the Financial Risk.  The Cypriot State is proud for having two new modern airports without spending a cent. Obviously the state did not calculate that those airports would probably be  the most expensive in Southern Europe (LCA – ATH 121 Euros airport taxes). Of course, Cyprus being the navel of the planet, the thirty something airlines that complained about the high fees and taxes, will never feel like “real” airlines if they do not touch ground in Cyprus.

It is very clear that we need a plan but we have no architect. This is the reason I propose the creation of a Tourism Cluster, a Cluster formed by professionals without business cards, without personal ambitions, without seeking votes, by people that are only interested in leaving a better future for their children, by people who live and let live in tourism, by people who want to bring change, who will reinvent a new touristicoeconomic  model that will take us out of this whole we are now deep in.

In my opinion a Cluster like this can only be successful if we take into account and develop what other destinations did, if we are able to take into account and plan having in mind the needs of tomorrows end user, if we are able to listen and act fast and efficiently. A Cluster that will take serious steps towards sustainability, accessibility and humanisation of the destination will defiantly be a model to follow.  The beginning of this Cluster could be the 2nd E-Tourism Forum (www.etourism-forum.com) in February 2010 when 10 or more top level speakers will be talking to us about how we can apply Experience, Innovation and  Design in a new  Leadership era so as  to gain Customer Trust.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gain customers online using old methods

Are you a hotelier? Do you own a small and friendly resort or city hotel anywhere in the world? Are you tired of unpaid tour operator invoices?  I am sure you will be very happy to increase your return business. Your best customers are filed in those old file boxes, all those registration cards are a gold mine. 

You just have to use your imagination and the Social Media sphere and results will come soon. Start from taking those registration cards out f he boxes and put them by order of arrival date. Choose the ones you think have more possibilities  to be online and search their name on google… the rest you will figure it out yourself, and if you do not, contact me and we will find the path together. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Leadership in Cyprus Tourism

Every industry needs to have a leader to follow. In tourism for the past 100 years we have had examples of people who took the leadership and given guidelines for the rest to follow. Conrad Hilton (Hilton Hotels) , Thomas Cook , Aristotele Onasis (Olympic Airways)  and others have shown the way to today?s tourism multinational companies.

Nowadays leading in tourism does not mean only taking financial risks and having a long term business vision as the people previously mentioned did. Leading in tourism it means coming up with ideas that need collaboration to be realized, product and service innovation and mostly being able to create a social movement that will follow. Tourism is the only social industry. People travel to certain places because other people travelled there or because other people did not travel there yet.

Cyprus is a place where lots of people have travelled, so leading in the Cypriot Tourism scenery means reinventing the product, delivering new services and making sure the service is delivered in an excellent way. Leading in Cyprus Tourism means reaching people who want to rediscover a place, means reaching people who demand value for money and reaching people who like to be pampered.

Excuses like the ones of the Minister of Tourism Mr. Antonis Paschalides who declared that Cyprus is loosing on the British Tourism Pie because the British Pound is weak against the Euro, are "cheap" and the prove the leadership Chaos we have.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Expedia by Choice

It seems that Expedia understood that a hotel chain is sovereign.  The negotiations between Expedia and Choice produced an agreement the leaves Expedia without last room availability. This means that Choice Hotel members have now the choice to work with the 80 portals of Expedia under conditons that they can manage and support.

I hope that this agreement can be respected and transported to other hotels, smaller players that still feel the “boot of Expedias”.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Social Media Trends in Toursim

Inspired on the article of David Armano published by on the blog of Harvard Business Publishing I would like to try to reflect  David’s thoughts and reflexions on the tourism sector.

It is very true that in 2009 we saw exponential growth of social media. According to Nielsen Online, Twitter alone grew 1,382% year-over-year in February, registering a total of just more than 7 million unique visitors in the US for the month. Meanwhile, Facebook continued to outpace MySpace. So what could social media look like in 2010? In 2010, social media will get even more popular, more mobile, and more exclusive — at least, that's my guess. What are the near-term trends we could see as soon as next year? In no particular order:

1. Social media begins to look less social
Niche networks are an opportunity for tourism.  For example the newly created Twitter lists and Facebook News Feed hyperactivity are the perfect scene for destinations and tourism related products to provoke more attention and offer  more options to the traveler who seeks for more value. Travelers can change their mind if the feeds they receive are suggesting innovation, service, quality and value for money. The high level of customer interference in those environments may look less social but defiantly this phenomena give us more targeted ways of reaching the end user effectively and more engaging.

2. Corporations look to scale
Hyatt has been one of the first corporations in the tourism industry to assist customers online by creating http://twitter.com/HyattConcierge. This initiative is a clear example of top level and personalized customer care at low personnel cost. This kind of initiatives could hide certain risks in terms of the so called “Social Media Time Wasting” policy corporations may have. On the other hand side, a well structured use of the social media by adequately trained and customer oriented personnel, will defiantly increase in the next few years the levels of service. At the same time the competiveness criteria of tourism destinations - corporations will change and from being the price as criteria we will have the Quality of Service, and the Value for Money.

3. Social business becomes serious play
David mentions Foursquare as an example of social media becoming local and mobile. Foursquare is a US network, so what happens with the rest of the world? I would suggest you  take a tour in Ning. There are thousands of communities created who treat local tourist products and services. Communities of Companies, Destinations, CVBs, DMCs, special tourism Products and many more. As an example I bring an interesting site that aims to bring excursion funs together with independent tour guides in Cyprus www.escapes-n-breaks.ning.com . The carrots David mentions in the world of tourism can be translated into tourism prizes that would defiantly increase tourist interest to old and new destinations.

4. Your company will have a social media policy
After discussing for one month with  40 top level marketers in how social media policy is important to their tourism enterprises we realize, at least here in Cyprus, how slowly but surely tourism companies adapt dynamic social programs. Still with some reservation on how social media can help them increase sales, but those reservations will disappear when they will receive the first inquiry, in social media the first inquiry may take some time to come but it is usually a firm “sale”  and a guaranteed satisfied customer (of course if we deliver at least the expected). And yes David is very right when he says  “If the company you work for doesn't already have a social media policy in place with specific rules of engagement across multiple networks, it just might in the next year.”

5. Mobile becomes a social media lifeline
In a meeting with a hotel owner I was really surprised to see that he was very furious about the fact that the Guest Relations Officer was “playing” on Facebook. So he personally asked the hotel director to “cut” all “Facebooks”. Like this, 70% of corporations and companies are banning social media. What this banning achieves is a huge explosion in smartphone sales and we are already experiencing Guest Relation Offices playing with their blackberry in the staff cafeteria, having Nimbuzz breaks at the same time of cigarette breaks and best about this is that the hotel gets benefited.

6. Sharing no longer means e-mail
Email ? who emails today to share a link, a presentation, etc ? Hotels and travel agents are the last of “Mohicans”. The of tools we have today to share our products and services are creating a revolution www.Ping.fm  , www.hootsuite.com  or www.sendible.com are simply the tip of the iceberg. I am wondering how many will still come. With one click you share your entire hotel inventory or via iphone applications you simply put your hotel in the telephone of every iphone user.

Thank you David for the inspiration.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In times of Crisis Technological Innovation, top level Consultancy Services and Training are the key to stay profitable.

The internet has been converted into the best friend of the companies and other organisations trying to mitigate the side effects of the financial crisis.  An increase is observed on the issues of online Marketing especially in the field of tourism.

The interest of large Cypriot tourist companies to ensure valid information and to study the new trends which are daily presented in the internet is highly increased.  From our experience we see companies like Amathus Hotels, Stademos Hotels, Four Seasons Hotel, Holiday Inn Hotel in Limassol, The Intercontinental Hotel in Paphos, St. George Hotel in Paphos and smaller companies like Pefkos Hotel in Limassol and travel agencies like A.L. Mantovani Travel ,  Sunhouse Travel , Travelorama ,  Azuro Travel and many more to have strong concerns as to the management of their online reputation.

Other organizations like  Louis Tourism Organasation, preferred to incorporate in their daily routine Open Source internet tools which they aspire to change into productive internet management tools.  Louis preferred the popular Joomla Content Management System in order to build its internet tools which will be interfaced with its traditional internal management systems.  The free open source tools as well as  the popular social media tools even though are free they need training, strategic planning and most of all change of culture within the Organizations.  For this reason, consultancy services as well as a humanly understandable training programmes from well established and specialized companies are necessary.

The capability of open source and “freenium” tools to adapt to the needs of small and large companies is judged on how they are used and not on how much are those used.  Hence, large organizations like Louis Tourism Organisation decided to use consultancy services which will assist them to incorporate in their daily processes a new work culture which will include the management of their online reputation, their online clientele and finally to develop an “Online Management” which will defiantly be proved  as very productive, measurable and profitable.

In the era when financial management was in “fashion”, organizations like PriceWaterhouse Coopers, KPMG and many more have placed their foundations in the market (in Cyprus and abroad) so as the entrepreneurs use new tools to better control their companies for more profitability.Now on the era of the new technologies the Cypriot companies should consult specialized companies on how to invest on human internet capabilities and how to use new tools to continue being profitable.

If large enterprises like Louis decided this change of culture, imagine how easy this will be for Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs)  to take advantage of the chance of “free” internet.  In Cyprus, in terms of consultancy,  training and especially the practical aspect of applied strategic internet, specialized professionals are available.  A sample of networking with highly qualified professionals from abroad, we had the chance to experience during the First E-Tourism Forum (www.etourism-forum.com) which took place in Limassol last February with the most recognized and well known professionals of the sector.  The Forum will be happening again in February 2010 and this time it will become a regional congress to attract tourism professionals from the Mediterranean countries.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Choice of Expedia

I would like to thank Max Starkov for bringing up the courageous decision of Choice hotels to leave the conversations with Expedia.

Yes finally we have a big player in accommodation supply to stand up and protest actively against the “Market Dictatorship” of a portal that acts as hotel rooms online are of its property.

We keep experiencing this same authoritarian approach by wholesalers, even now after the appearance of the internet. Hoteliers in coastal resorts and especially in the Mediterranean, are under the “boot” of the tour operators. In Cyprus, due to the flight “embargo” imposed for so many years by the State of Cyprus  its through its Flying Department,  Cyprus Airways,  we suffer by what we can call  Tour Operator Stockholm Syndrome.  Big and small Tour Operators have found the perfect ground in Cyprus so as to have the last word on pricing and availabilities.

Choice Hotels is an example of a non homogeneous group of hotels that has put the interest of their owners above all other priorities. Sharing interests today is a virtue, but sharing them and making common actions in Cyprus is impossible.

In a meeting I assisted recently with tourism businessmen in the chamber of Commerce I have noticed that the interests are not shared. The tourism entrepreneurs are divided and do not share the same objectives and goals. Some think about today, some think about tomorrow some others about 2010 and many are simply pessimists that tourism industry has reached its end.

Well here I need to say that if we keep suffering in silence our “Stockholm Syndrome” then for sure we will loose the only recourse we have left on this island.

I am wondering if hoteliers, and especially the independent ones, will soon wake up and with one united voice take strategic actions and recover the lost ground.  I am wondering if we will stand up and ask for real flight freedom, I am wondering if will stand up and ask for accesible towns, I am wondering if will stand up and demand more funds Technology and Internet applications, I am wondering if we will stand up and claim the abolition of "Taxi Dictatorship" and invest in honest public transport.

Change is hard and painful but defiantly is the only way to achieve profitable numbers and quality. We are looking into change as a thread in Cyprus, we always did, now is time to see it as opportunity.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Allbury Travel Group will go bankrupt

The travel organisation the is led by Andreas Drakou and his collaborators will not support the pressure and will announce its bankruptcy just before Christmas,

This is what we think since the payments for last summer’s accommodation and services in Cyprus are paid with great delays and after huge pressures from the stakeholders.

Allbury Travel  that took over all Libra Holidays operations 2 years ago it was contempt to die since the directors were still managing the finances of the company as if they were their pocket money.

I am wondering how many tourists will stay in destinations and how many booking will remain unpaid.
It seems that hoteliers and other suppliers do not understand the bankruptcy of Allbury will take the reputation of the Cypriot Travel Product even lower.

I guess after this post I will get another phone call from them asking why I give them bad name. They will get their answer soon ... even better they will answer the question themselves in less than 2 months time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Tourism, innovation, training and collaboration can turn Crisis into an Oportunity

The internet has become the first ally of Tourism Companies to fight Crisis. In the last months there is an increased interest from Cypriot travel companies to get trained on E-Marketing.

This interest is mainly visible among the big travel related companies who are keen to have their top level marketers trained to face the new challenges using The Online as  Major Business tool.

From our experience we see companies such as Louis Group, the Amathus Hotels, Stademos Hotels, the hotel Four Seasons in Limassol, the Aphrodite Hills Intercontinental, the Hotel St. George, the Capo Bay Hotel, the small Pefkos Hotel in Limassol, the Hotel Grecian Park, the travel agencies Elpis Travel, A.L Mantovani, CTT, Sunhouse and many others including the newly renovated Napa Mermaid (which already is managing its online reputation in a more active and effective manner), to have great interest on Online Marketing training. They want to create the adequate circumstances within their organisation so as the online becomes part of their dayily management routine.

This is the line the Cyprus Tourism Organisation is following as well. After the in house training the staff of the CTO received from October 08 until March 09 they have realised the need to manage their Online Reputation effectively and this is the reason that from this moment we will be able to see and feel online actions with direct and indirect reflections on Cyprus’ good name online.

This innovative initiative is the result of long training and change in the way the CTO sees Online tools. The seed was planted in October 08 and grew especially during the first E-tourism Forum (www.etourism-forum.com) that took place in Cyprus last February. Speakers from all over the world, experts in Online Marketing, have given their views on Tourism from very different, interesting and practical points of view.
Probably is the first time in the history of Cyprus that the Public Sector leads on the online world and this is the greatest opportunity for the Private Sector to join and create a strong cluster of collaboration with the objective to fight crisis and come out of it stronger and more competitive tourism wise.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Measures to boost Tourism in Cyprus cause collateral damage

Lately we hear on the news that the measures the Cyprus government adopted to boost tourism will continue for the year 2010.

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism through the Cyprus Tourism Organization spends millions of Euros on “bonus plans” to the Tour Operators from almost all over the world (at least all the markets they consider primary) who manage to land tourist in Larnaca(LCA) and Paphos(PFO) Airports. This policy is widely accepted in the Tourism Sector since the bonus is given to the Tour Operators either according to the number of passengers landed or as advertisement fees for the advertising campaigns the Tour Operators make in the country of origin.

The list of the Tour Operators is huge and is of public domain. What is not public is the amount of bonus each Tour Operator received and the agreement signed between the 2 parts. Nevertheless, studying the list we will see companies from the UK, USA, Germany, France, Italy, East Europe, Arab Countries and many others.
Lately we had some rumors that an Italian Tour Operator that had a bonus agreement with the Republic of Cyprus and also had contracts with hotels in “North Cyprus”. This provoked the reaction of the Minister and the Tourism Professionals in the Republic and the Minister promised to investigate the mater in depth.
The fact that tourists land to Larnaca and then taxis, private cars or other means of transport drive them to the hotels in “North Cyprus” is neither a secret nor a lie. It can be for sure verified very easily just by visiting the arrivals hall of Larnaca airport and see taxi drivers holding signs with names of hotels located in the “other Cyprus”. Hotels like “Acapulco Hotel “ Kyrenia”, “Manolia Hotel in Lapythos”, “Dome Hotel - Kyrenia” and many others including many casinos.

The big tour operators that land to Larnaca and Paphos such as Thomas Cook and Thomson “ Tui do not only offer Tourist Packages with flight, hotel and transfers but they also offer flight-only options to their customers. They do than not only in Cyprus but all over the world and there is nothing wrong with that, on the contrary they cater for the FIT market (Free Independent Travelers) who definitely have a different spending power and interests. Now, in Cyprus since the road blocks to the “North” are still open there is no way to control who and why visits the “North”. What happens the last years is that tourists who the Greek Cypriots taxpayers have paid them to come to Cyprus, land in Laranca and then spend their holidays in hotels that were built on Greek Cypriot occupied land. The internet and especially travel forums and the Social Media sphere are full with comments like "We had a wonderful time in North Cyprus, we flew to Larnaca with Thomsonfly..."

This shows us that our Government in an indirect but “effective” manner is taking the “North out of the economic isolation”. We, the Greek Cypriot taxpayers even now in times of Crisis and when tourist overnights are down by at least 20%, still support the model of prizing operators and airlines. It is not possible to control who is crossing the Green Line since the road blocks remain open. We cannot prohibit to EU citizens to go on holidays on European land but we can stop paying for that.

At last we have to stop pumping tax money into the bank accounts of the big guys and look into a serious change of tourism policy, we should finally make this policy very personal. We need to look at tourism as a face to face relationship with each and every visitor to Cyprus. I would suggest new bonus plans that have direct effect to all the visitors, we need to encourage independent travelers to come to our country and stay here with us. Bonus plans that promote our hospitality and do not give in to the “warnings" of the “feudal lords of tourism”. For more information I remind you the speech of a director of  Thomson - Tui during the Hoteliers Association Conference in Nicosia the 12th of February 2009 when in front of the minister of Public Works and the Minister of Tourism said, “help us to help you” when in a direct manner asked us for more money. He and his team were pushing for a 20% discount on the contracted rates for 2009 something that they achieved. During lunch break he also achieved a 5% retroactive discount on the pending invoices in order to “decrease corporate losses”. Nevertheless the biggest achievement for companies like Tui was to assure that the Cypriot taxpayers keep paying them to bring visitors to the legal airports of the country and then let them free to visit “the uncovered north where time seems stopped, the authentic Cyprus, North Cyprus”

Dear Mr. Paschalides in tourism we need measures without collateral damages, we need measures that assure future to the only industry left which you can be minister of, we need to control those measures and make sure they really bring a benefit. We want those measures to be under the control of those who pay them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Online Marketing for Hotels and Travel Agents

I would like to thank all the participants who attended our seminar today Tuesday the 15th of September at the Ajax Hotel in Limassol. Personally I have enjoyed the active participation and the exchange of views on how the Cypriot Hotelier and the incoming agent could face the changes of the global market online.

Special thanks to our hosts , Ajax Hotel, for the great hospitality the excellent quality of the coffee breaks and the fabulous buffet lunch at their restaurant. Great tastes of real Cyprus and Mediterranean food accompanied by the attention of Akis Ioannides the General Manager and the staff of the hotel.

Also I would like to thank each and every participant form the hotels and agencies of the area. From the Holiday Inn Limassol Christos Rousos, from Pekos Hotel Nefytos Efstathiou, from the Mediterranean Hotel Sotiris Kaffa and Christina Lambrou, from Amathus Hotel Eugenios Savva, from Four Seasons Limassol Nick Aristou who shared with us valuable information concerning his activity online, Konstantina Eftathiou from Sun House Travel, from A.L Matnovani Travel Evros Theophanous and Julia Papageorgiou from JPP Marketing.

All of them have shown great interest and very active participation and made me become a better trainer, defiantly their experiences are of enormous value to me and to the seminnar.

Last but not least I would like to thank my assistant Maria Shaili-Papamiltiadous for her uncondtional support and fantastic work following the pace of the presentation and her more than valuable work concerning paperwork.

Next stop, Paphos the 22nd of September. Looking forward to welcoming the tourism sector of Pafos.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Illegal operation of Libra Holidays in Cyprus

Libra Accommodations CY LTD, the company that signed accommodation contacts with Cypriot Hoteliers was operating illegally in Cyprus.

After the court case P.C Mavros Vs Libra in Cyprus (Paphos District Court (case number 3806/07) dated 26 Nov. 2008 9 the vale was uncovered. According to the Cypriot Registrar of Companies, Libra Accommodations (CY) LTD with Directors among others Mr. Adreas Drakou (known as managing director of the fatal Helios Airways ) , Mr. Themis Drakou , Mr. Adreas Koumis (who resigned the 13th of March 2007), Mr. Theodoros Antoniou (who also resigned the 20th of June 2007) was formed as a company the 17th of February 2000. This company has since then signed various accommodation contacts with various hotels in the Republic of Cyprus but they NEVER had an operating licence on the island. The Cyprus Tourism Organisation has never given this company a licence to operate as an incoming travel agent and therefore Libra Accommodations CY Ltd has never been a proper, legal tour operator or travel agent with licence to bring tourist in Cyprus.

In 2007 Libra stop paying many hoteliers among others the small hotel Apollo Hill in Pafos. After long discussions and negotiations Apollo Hill operated by a family company ( P.C. Mavros and Sons LTD) took the case to the court and on the 26th of November 2008 the court decided against Libra. When the civil servants of the court went to Libra offices in Limassol, they discover that the company had nothing at all as moveable of fixed assets, neither any cash to fulfil the decision of the court.

P.C. Mavros and Sons LTD has contacted the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) offices in order to claim the bank guarantee all agents deposit according to the law. It was then when the owner of P.C. Mavros and sons LTD discovered that Libra did not even requested an operating licence.

As a conclusion we can say that Libra Holidays that is the mother company of Libra Accommodations has been operating since the year 2000 (for 9 years until today) illegally in Cyprus.

Picture Above: From left to the right:

Mr. Photis Photiou (President of CTO in 2005), Mr. Andreas Drakou (Managing Director of Libra Holidays Group), Akis Kyprianou (Executive Director of Libra Holidays Group- in 2005 who resigned in 2007).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Emerging Tourist Markets and the Internet

According to the latest research made by Nielsen, Internet is the favourite means of Chinese when searching for tourist information in their effort to choose their holiday destination.
According always to Nielsen, 61% of the Chinese who travelled for leisure have searched the basic information for their destination on the web and 48% of those have consulted interactive websites like Rating Sites, Forums, Social Media, Blogs etc to confirm that the information found on the destination’s official sites are valid.

As a result of the same research it is mentioned that the comments and experiences shared on the internet from other travellers largely affect the new travellers’ decision. The research also showed that the traditional travel agents are only involved in two out of the five trips that Chinese travellers are undertaking. Furthermore, 70% remember the online destination advertisements more than the other means of communication and 40% remember the corresponding advertisements from magazines, newspapers, radio and even television.

As a conclusion from the Nielsen research, a clear Online Marketing Policy need to be implemented urgently in order to attract a piece of the pie of approximately 50 million Chinese travellers (official statistics of 2008) who are willing to meet new cultures and explore new destinations. This policy is necessary not only to be implemented by government agencies but is even more importantly by the private sector. This is only achieved through specialized training programs which in Cyprus are subsidized by the Human Resource Development Authority.

What do we do as a destination to attract the interest of the “Red Dragon”? If we take into consideration that by 2013 China will be the first English speaking country worldwide, then as a destination with a strong presence of the English language we should enhance our efforts of attracting Chinese tourists. The different tourist destinations in Cyprus should take action online and reinvent their internet sites so as to become more interactive and human oriented. The Regional Boards of Tourism should at last co operate with the private sector and the professional associations in order to convert their websites into one stop shopping site. Their lack of presence at this moment it only achieves the diversion of internet visitors into the websites of competitors with the meaning of “if you don’t have it, I buy from somebody else”. Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) cannot and should not play this role since the diversity of our resorts should be marketed by the resorts and this is what Brussels is urging on the framework of the programs for Regional Development. Nevertheless the CTO has already started implementing online PR policy in the different Social Media.

In addition, we should mention here the very important role of the airlines. In the case of China we have the chance due to our geographical location to become a stop over to Europe. The millions of Chinese travellers could stay for one week in Cyprus and one week in any other European country either on their arrival or departure of their country. This can be achieved only with a strong air transport policy on behalf of the government agencies and other bodies.
From the Nielsen research we conclude that the sterile protocols of tourist agreements, such as the one signed on the 13th of May by the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Mr Antonis Paschalides, are useless unless they are followed by feasible and state blessing B2B agreements.

Business to business agreements can be accomplished with the presence of Cypriot tourist businessmen on the framework of events such as the professional tourist exhibition China Outbound Travel Trade Market (www.cottm.com) which takes place in Beijing every spring (for 2010 it will take place from 28th to 30th April).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tourism e-accessibility and e-inclusion, a niche loyal maket is forgotten

In their effort to find niche markets, the tourist destinations have finally realised that disabled people constitute an advanced market with advanced needs and lot of perspectives; a market that belongs among the most loyal groups of clients. Let’s not forget that Europe is getting older and the obligations of the countries members of the European Union (http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/einclusion/index_en.htm) increase, therefore more and more opportunities are given to the disabled individuals to travel under the same circumstances as the rest of the citizens.

The journey starts from their house, from their personal computer, usually by searching Google. However, as Abbott (2001) argues, even though internet provides opportunities of democratization of society through freedom of expression, sometimes of even radical opinions, it is still predominated by websites which usually reverberate the dominant ideology and stereotypes, or it is rich in advertising websites which rarely consider disabled individuals as a remarkable market. Therefore, the trip of a person with disabilities is mandatorily continued only on those websites of suppliers or tourist services which can cover their first need of accessibility, by following the various protocols of accessibility for the web design and content, like the ones developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, known as W3C.

Most of the Cypriot and Greek websites of the big tourist enterprises do not meet those criteria and therefore are not accessible, also evidenced by the research of Zafiris and Zacharias (2001 and 2003). The high importance given on the artistic design and not on the usability and accessibility of a website, lefts disabled individuals out of the online marketing. To avoid any possible misunderstandings, at this point we need mention that most of the criteria defined by W3C are easy to achieve, since clear guidelines are given. Those criteria do not necessarily deprive the artistic design of a site. On the contrary, they strengthen good design and facilitate the designer to avoid any possible excesses and mistakes which without realizing may affect the success of the website. The various accessibility protocols include special design guidelines of the web material with regards to accessibility for particular disabilities (e.g visual disability, motor disabilities, etc.) but at the same time include general instructions as to the usability of the website, its readability, the content presentation, the search engines, the easy and well understood reservation systems, like www.sybelio.com, and many more, which contribute in the creation of a human oriented website, which is easily accessible to every citizen of the modern society. Research findings have shown that the accessible design of a website can increase at least 10% the number of the people visiting the website.

If the tourist enterprises of Greece and Cyprus want to attract, and please allow us to repeat here the word want, an inclusive market which doesn’t exclude disability, they should not only build ramps next to the staircases, or create rooms with special equipment, and doors suitable for wheelchairs etc., but they should also give the possibilityof accessibility next to their well designed websites, so that online material, advertising and information will be appropriate and accessible to people with for visual, hearing, motor and learning disabilities, etc. Everybody has the right and we have the obligation to offer exactly the same and equal services we offer to the rest of the community.

The website accessibility should belong in the same legal framework as the physical accessibility. If one organisation offers internet services to the public, the legislation should have enforced it to offer the same services in accessible websites, as has already started in a number of European and other countries with the guidelines of Universal Design.

If Greece and Cyprus become leading markets through accessible internet and offer their tourist services in accessible websites, and this is well advertised, then we “endanger” to become accessible destinations. After all, the conviction of the European Union is that by 2010 all the public websites to become accessible then why not all the tourist websites, too? Of course it is not enough our websites to be accessible. We are obliged to have our towns, villages, beaches and mountain resorts accessible and inclusive, and this is only achieved though real and feasible human oriented plans and strong political decisions by the local authorities, decisions that can be materialized quickly.

My recent experience, in teaching an e-commerce course to 10 young people with hearing disabilities, under the Synergia Programme of the European Union, has confirmed the many opportunities those people have in online marketing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Direct Online Hotel Marketing can make a difference in times crisis

Have we invented everything on the internet ?

Sometimes it seems that innovation on the internet is either impossible or very expensive. Well I must say that the young MBA Greek student at Kingston University UK has proven us that things can be neither expensive nor impossible.

Spyros Pyrgiotis has created www.thetextpage.com looking at it as a cheap way of advertising. Pay per character model, a newish way of charging advertising that attract the attention of media such as BBC.

Now, how can the travel industry benefit from initiatives of this type? The travel industry is the leader in offers. Hotels and other accommodation facilities with the help of user friendly online booking engines (like Sybelio which is fantastic for special offers) could publish their special offers at a very low cost on this web. Google is indexing this site every 20 minutes since and the fact that it renews its content very often is an advantage for keeping it high in Google rank.

So, if you are an hotelier and you suffer from the low production of the tour operators it is time to take action. Get a non commissionable online booking engine that helps you create offers. ( I personally recommend Sybelio) and spread your offers online using Social Media correctly and why not pay per character at www.thetextpage.com.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How can you increase hotel bookings online in times of crisis?

The internet is full of special offers from hotels that sell their rooms at very low prices especially through portals. The big guys in the market, Expedia, Booking.com, Last Minute and so many others are squeezing the hotels and especially the independent hotels to give low, very low prices to the visitors of those portals. The crisis is the perfect excuse to make more money for the portals. The lower the prices the more the hits, more bookings so more commissions.

Now, my proposal is simple. Now is the time to use our brain as hoteliers, we need to work out a simple strategy of online pricing, maintaining or not price parity since today parity parity is only a theory and give to ourselves more visibility.

Visibility means, presence, professional presence in the different social media, serious and professional SEO and really user friendly mostly customer friendly online booking tools. Tools that give you the functionalities you need to spread your offers in the Blog sphere, in the Social Media Jungle and reach your end customer without a cent of commission.

Do those systems exist? The answer is yes. A Spanish company has developed this system and it works really well. Sybelio has the capability to do that without the hotel to need to invest crazy amounts of money and without a cent of commission.

I was talking to Daniele Pesavento, the Sales and Marketing Director and he has given me a demo of the system which at the beginning seems to be another online booking tool. After seeing that it does the job in 14 languages, it has a very powerful special offer module that can create any type of offer and the way that those offers can be linked to all the Social Media I was more than convinced to connect it my hotel web site if I had one.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Time sharing in Cyprus - From time Sharing to Profit Sharing in Cyprus Tourism - A curse or a blessing?

A “war” against time sharing has started the last few days by the Municipalities and the Tourism professionals. It is a fact that this issue is becoming a “threat” for the tourists who, as they get away from the “All Inclusive Packages”, run into the sales people of the time sharing.

I really do not understand why in Cyprus we “hide behind our finger”. Isn’t it obvious that those selling time sharing are working for eponymous Cypriot businessmen? Maybe they are not on their payroll system but they serve their interests indirectly. Time sharing is a networking, a phenomenon well spread in holiday areas and Cyprus is not an exception to the rule. Cypriot businessmen have made deals with time sharing suppliers and have entered this network. This is neither illegal nor immoral. But the so called time sharing “sales people” in Cyprus may sell buildings in Egypt in the same network. This is what confuses the Authorities and they do not understand that the network is made in a certain way so as to sell anywhere and everybody is benefited.

Time sharing is a widespread method of selling holiday accommodation and first started from the USA and was spread all over the world. Countries like Aruba, Bermuda, USA, Latin America and many more have accepted it and gave the institution a legal coverage. The most well know time sharing company in the world is Marriott (www.marriott-vacations.com) with more than 50 locations from USA, Spain, France, Aruba, Thailand etc. Another company is the world known Starwood (www.starwoodvacationownership.com) with again many locations.

There is of course the opposite side of time sharing. During the 1990’s in the region of Malaga in South Spain (Torremolinos, Benalmadena etc) English and Belgians with guileful ways have taken millions from tourists in order to sell them time sharing in projects under construction. In this trap some Spanish land developers participated since they believed that their “collaborators” had their customers ready and since they took an advanced deposit started to build. The problem arose when the English and Belgians “collaborators” took 80% of the money and disappeared leaving the Spanish developers exposed. In this story many Cypriots, staying in England lost their money since they invested in the project.

In Cyprus since ownership is allowed time sharing found its way of spreading out quickly. The “sales people” do not even have the basic knowledge of how to sell. They become extremely pushy and try to sell by giving out free accommodations etc. Those sales people work without any contract and undertake the risk of getting arrested by the police and pay the fine. They work only on commission basis and therefore nobody can figure out their relationship with Cypriot enterprises and businessmen. In reality what is happening is in everybody’s knowledge. The end result, sales, is at the benefit of the businessmen and this is what everybody is not telling whey they speak publicly.

The names of the companies dealing with time sharing can be found easily on the internet and you can find those at www.vpresales.com, www.rci-timeshare.com, www.sellmytimesharenow.com, and many more. There you will find out which Cypriot companies are involved in this type of business. I would say that in order to solve the problem, we should look into the Board of Directors of many companies and find out the people who brought this to Cyprus. The issue which remains is whether those people who speak publicly are in reality willing to solve the problem.

If we get deeper into the issue, we will see many interesting things. Just ask Google for “Pafos time sharing” and in two seconds will give you its results. Have a look and make your own conclusions.

The question is whether Time Sharing is good for tourism and the economy of Cyprus. Well, if it is well organised, legal and institutionalized in a way that each ones role is clearly defined, and if the so called “sales people” stop bothering then yes it is good because at the end new tourists will come on the island with tourism consciousness since they will be owners as well. If though, the “sales people” continue to act in a fraudulent and pressing way and if the Cypriots selling the time sharing do not undertake the responsibility to clear out the situation, then this will be another factor of the tourism crisis Cyprus will have to face.

The internet is full of complaints about Cyprus; complaints and discussions take place in social media and forums. Many angry tourists complain about the “harassment” they get into. If this continues without taking any serious steps then the consequences will be destructive for the reputation of Cyprus as a tourist destination.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Paphos International Airport - (PFO) – A great Experience

In the eighties Pafos was written on the international airport map with its PFO airport. Then the society in Cyprus was divided. Was Paphos was big enough to host an international airport? The area was basically abandoned by the Cypriot State since the connection between Limassol (Lemesos) and Pafos was made by a narrow curvy and dangerous road and there was indication that the high way was soon to be built. Today after 20 years, Pafos has the highway and Pafos – Limassol is just 30 minutes drive. In November 2008 the new Pafos International Airport was inaugurated. Today I had the opportunity to fly to Thessaloniki (Makedonia Airport) from Pafos.

I invite all of you who want to travel from Cyprus and to Cyprus to choose Paphos Airport (PFO). The building is full of natural light, the decoration is smooth, the walls are decorated by works of art from local artists, the character of the place is modern and is has nothing to envy any modern European Airport, its size is just ideal for the area, human and friendly atmosphere that inspire you security and comfort.

Finally Pafos left behind its 20 years of bad airport history, finally we have an airport we, the citizens of the area and all the Cypriots, deserve. Thank you Hermes Airports for the effort and please keep the quality high, now is time to work to get more flights and boost tourism and business travellers to Pafos.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Subsidise tourism in the European Union for the benefit of the small and medium tourist enterprise instead of the big tour operators and whole sellers

The crisis is not anymore a ghost, it is a reality especially for the small and medium tourist entrepreneur, Cyprus is defiantly not the exemption, despite that the minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Mr. Antonis Paschalides was assuring the Hoteliers and Travel industry that we would only have a 10% decrease the reality is completely different. The best numbers talk about a 20% decrease in occupancies and the worst numbers talk about 30%.

What that is all mean? It mainly means that the big tour operators are not fulfilling their compromise with the industry. The tour operators that last winter were asking for help and took from the industry subsidies of some million Euros are now not fulfilling their compromises. The crisis excuse is simply perfect, easy to pronounce and very easy to demonstrate that the crisis is responsible. Now , if someone digs a bit deeper you find out that things are not that easy, and let me bullet point my thoughts.

1. Big tour operators support the destinations in the Mediterranean that are outside the Euro zone since their currencies are not subject to euro ? dollar relationship and therefore are at least 35% cheaper in airport taxes and ground tourist services such as transfers and accommodation.

2. The money they use to push those destinations is the money they got from the bleeding destinations like Cyprus, who did not have other alternative than subsidizing arrivals. Conclusion, the rich European destinations subsidise through the private sector the development of tourism to their direct competitors.

3. The EU rules put barriers to direct subsidies but not in Turkey or Egypt. Over there things are done according to ?market rules?. Therefore the big guys have more manoeuvre space and can with not much trouble pull the strings to the suppliers for lower prices.

4. Low cost airlines are not interested in covering long hall flights from central and northern Europe . The costs are far too high and they cannot enter in the subsidy dance since most of them do not work with package deals. This keeps the Tour Operators alive in the aviation map since the destinations consider them indispensable for bringing in mass tourism even thought low cost airlines transport many more passengers than charter flights.

1. Independent hoteliers and small hotel chains that do not have corporate liaisons with tour operators could create a new business model that would fit the Low Cost airline model and make a pressure group in the market place.
2. The state instead of subsidizing tour operators could use that money to reduce the airport taxes, increase online presence in an effective manner towards the direct user.
3. Incentivize the tour operators with indirect incentives such as tax reductions, VAT exemptions that have impact on their profit and loss account and not on their cash flow, like this they keep the pulse of sales but without using direct cash benefits.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Online reservations in 14 laguages with Social Media facility

Sybelio, the non commissionable online booking system built in Spain has the capability to publish content on Social Media. The hotel can create its Special Offers and let its followers know instantly on all Social Media. Sybelio can know boost direst sales of hotels, hotel chains, incoming agents and any other accommodation facilities your company may have.

The University of Seville - Spain introduces Sybelio Online Booking System in its Curricular for Master and Degree Students in Hospitality

The University of Seville and Sybelio Online sign a collaboration agreement for
the tourism degree.

The University of Seville and Sybelio have signed a collaboration agreement so that students of tourism learn and put into practice on line commerce using Sybelio, one of the most comprehensive online booking engines that exist in the tourism market and the use of which, completely configurable, is open to hotels, tour operators and travel agencies.

Online sales, the importance of which has grown in the last few years, have nowadays become a subject that is studied at universities.

The University of Seville has recently offered a specific module on new information technologies applied to on line sales with no middlemen, directly from the web pages of the tourist establishments. This module has been taught in the Tourism Degree, in the Hotel Management Master Degree and in the training course on Management and Marketing of Tourist Establishments. Over the last month, 450 students have taken the above mentioned courses and have used Sybelio online booking engine for that purpose. Sybelio has become a basic tool in order to design, program and execute tourist sales through the Internet.

With this agreement Sybelio wants to contribute in the curricular of the University so as the new directors of hotels and tourism companies in Spain become familiar with online tools in order to boost the use of online in their daily job in a very normal and natural manner. From the other hand site Sybelio will be permanently becoming even a better tool due to the input the company will receive from the university students.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Role of the Tour Operators in the new era of Tourism where internet is getting stronger

Many of us who defend the disintermediation of tourism and that the traditional tour operators had no place in the tourism market as intermediates, it is now proven that we are wrong. We are wrong since customers need a Big Guy to place their complaints. Here are some examples of REAL customer complaints. This was sent from a Major UK Tour Operator - listing some of the British guests' complaints during the year 2008.

"I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts."

"It's lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during 'siesta' time - this should be banned."

"On my holiday to Goa in India , I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food at all."

"We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes and towels."

A tourist at a top African game lodge overlooking a waterhole, who spotted a visibly aroused elephant, complained that the sight of this rampant beast ruined his honeymoon by making him feel "inadequate".

A woman threatened to call police after claiming that she'd been locked in by staff. When in fact, she had mistaken the "do not disturb" sign on the back of the door as a warning to remain in the room.

"The beach was too sandy."

"We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white."

A guest at a Novotel in Australia complained his soup was too thick and strong. He was inadvertently slurping the gravy at the time.

"Topless sunbathing on the beach should be banned. The holiday was ruined as my husband spent all day looking at other women."

"We bought 'Ray-Ban' sunglasses for five Euros (£3.50) from a streettrader, only to find out they were fake."

"No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled."

"It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England, it only took the Americans three hours to get home."

"I compared the size of our one-bedroom apartment to our friends' three-bedroom apartment and ours was significantly smaller."

"The brochure stated: 'No hairdressers at the accommodation'. We're trainee hairdressers - will we be OK staying here?"

"There are too many Spanish people. The receptionist speaks Spanish. The food is Spanish. Too many foreigners."

"We had to queue outside with no air conditioning."

"It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel."

"I was bitten by a mosquito - no-one said they could bite."

"My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room, but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked."

I hope you enjoyed the quotes. This post has as objective to amuse the readers as well as show in a funny way that Tourism needs all of us since our customers' needs vary so much.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The role of the Professional Tourist Associations in attracting new tourists online

Cyprus with the two Hotel Associations, Pasyxe (www.cyprushotelassociation.org) and Stek (www.acte.com.cy )is another tourist destination where the two Associations have no presence concerning online Sales & Marketing. Their static websites which promote the activities and objectives are definitely not adequate for the development of any online strategy.

The financial dependence of the members of theAssociations upon the big Tour Operators “scares” their Governing Boards to take “courageous” decisions towards making serious steps online in order to seduce the end user.

Cost is not a matter, and the Associations know that. The websites that are officially managed by
the Associations should be the ones that inspire travel and I bring as an example the exquisite websites of the Hoteliers Association of Barcelona, Spain,
www.barcelonahotels.es, the website of the Association of Small Hotels of Playa del Carmen in Mexico, www.hotelesplayadelcarmen.com , the Hoteliers Association of Costa Daurada in Catalonia, www.costadaurada.travel , the website of the Hoteliers Association in Bermuda, www.experiencebermuda.com and the so called “Association ofTurkish Cypriot Hoteliers” , www.northcyprus.net that also has a decent presence on the web.

The breakdown into regional Associations, as it happens in Pafos, gives the capability to upsell the hotels and tourist products locally. This up-selling should already be upgraded since the formation of the Regional Boards of Tourism, but unfortunately this does not happen yet. Taking as an example the Pafos Hoteliers Association, www.pafoshoteliers.com , we very quickly realise that the site is Palaeolithic. It has been built 9 years ago and is based on ancient technologies and is almost impossible to make a booking in any of the hotels listed on their online booking system.

The site is organically positioned due to its content and comes up in the first page in Google with the keywords “Hotels in Pafos”. For this reason the site receives more than 70,000 unique visitors a year (approximately 192 per day) out of which 70% are from the United Kingdom. Translating this into real money we find that the site loses approximately 2000 bookings a year of an average of 6 overnights which means 24,000 bed nights. Calculating that each overnight spends 50,00 Euro per person per day (considering collateral expenses not only accommodation of “cheap web attracted customers”) then we find out that 1,200,000 Euros do not fall into the cash registries of the Tourist Enterprises from direct customers only in Pafos the
last year.

At the Limassol Hoteliers Association (www.limassol-hotels.com) thesituation cannot be described as anything else but as an online tragedy, since they still list hotels which have been converted into offices and apartments for some years now.

The question now is, what is the role of the Professional Associations in the new era of tourism and how could they be a player in a time of crisis?. The internet offers a unique opportunity of disintermediation of online sales on both hotels and airlines and many destinations have proven it. Can we prove it as well? Where are the listeners in the boards of the associations? Have they realised that the “we know it all era” is over?

I would like to call the 2 Cypriot associations to open their wings in the new internet era and fly with the fair winds towards the end user and put their small but very important brick on the online wall against crisis.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

From attracting to seducing, the internet has changed tourism as well

The Internet has become the means of attraction of tourists for many “inexistent” Tourist Destinations worldwide. Places like New Zealand, Slovakia, Montenegro or regions such as Murcia or Extremadura in Spain almost did not “exist” before the Internet Revolution. They took very seriously their online potential and invested time and money on their online actions and strategies. Here below I try to will give you a different approach with 3 different methods of how Destinations could or do use the power and the potential of the internet to seduce visitors.

1. T.U.I: Traditional Uncovered Influence.

In T.U.I mode the destination gives to Thomas Cook, Thomson-Tui, American Express Travel or whoever other Big Tour Operator, lets say 3,5 million Euros each in form of “marketing expenses” and seeks ROI. This money is used by the tour operators to “market” the destination and of course to market it online since 50% of the sales of the big tour operators are now made online and almost 98% of total sales are confirmed using online tools. Thomsons-Tui for example last week was promoting Tunisia on their UK site and defiantly they were not doing it for free. If Cyprus for example is an expensive destination and Turkey or Tunisia are not so expensive then obviously the tour operator will prefer to promote an easy to sell destination than a hard one, since we are in S.H.I.T, (Stupid Hospitality Industry Turbulence) caused by real estate speculation

2. D.I.Y.O: Do It Yourself Online:

D.I.Y.O is a rather new way of attracting visitors. As all other D.I.Y methods, this requires new skills, new way of thinking, new strategy, new planning and especially lots of courage and faith in what you are doing. It works the same way as D.I.Y for plumbing. If you do not have enough confidence in what you are doing or if your skills are not yet well developed then you may end up with the house flooded. In politics flooding is dangerous, voters can punish you severely, just look what happens in the UK. Ministers fall over their chairs one after the other, but anyway that is in the UK, those things do not happen in the southern areas of the ex British Empire.

3. N.E.T: Neo-technological Effective Tourism:

N.E.T has 3 legs: The Destination, The Suppliers and The Customer all working in a team.

1. The Destination: a.k.a the Tourism Board: With N.E.T the Destination belongs to all and not all to the Destination. It needs to have proven flexibility, credibility and ability, not proven incapability. It needs to give answers online and not orders from-the-line. It needs to share valuable content and in an easy, indexable, universal and accessible environment and not hide content behind bureaucratic monsters and technological myths. In N.E.T “mood” the Destination to has a regulatory role and not a regular role.

2. The Suppliers Travel Professionals : In a N.E.T environment the airlines have online services and not online barriers, the taxis are booked online together with public transport and not “hitched hiked”, the hotels have online price parity and not online price asperity, the incoming agents are destination experts and not the destination desperates, in N.E.T suppliers practice online customer care do not customer scare.

3. The Customer: a.k.a the One who Pays Our Salaries.: The Customer is not only the receiver anymore but also the transmitter. He/She determines online how he/she wants to receive the service, he/she feels the value from home on the PC screen and he/she Pay Palls it. He/She is not scared to share and shout it loud. How does he/she does all that? By Blogging and not Blocking, by Commenting and not Complaining , by Face-booking and not Face-hiding, by Twittering and not Twisting , being on Youtube and not on Our Tube, by Trip Advising and not Trip Forgetting, by being Seduced online and not Ignored even online.

The article was originally published on the Cypriot Newspaper
Financial Mirror on Wednesday 1
st July 2009.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Libra Holidays pays older debts

Hoteliers in Cyprus have finally received payments for the year 2008. Debts Libra Holidays created in 2008 are now, after a year, being paid by the new owners of Libra.

In spring 2008 Vasilis and Aimon, two directors , from the central offices of Libra in the UK were touring Cyprus agreeing with hoteliers the final debts for the season 2008. Various hoteliers have got their money (if not all a big percentage at least) and some of those hoteliers have cancelled commitment contacts for the current season (2009) since they are afraid of a second big time bankruptcy of Allbury Travel Group. The market in Cyprus has lost all the confidence in the company run by Andreas Drakou and his partners. The financial whole created in 2007 is still too big despite that court cases were won in Cyprus. Specifically a hotelier was very surprised to see that after winning the court case the court clearing agent went to the offices of Libra Holidays in Limassol but came back with empty hands since Libra was basically a ghost company without any assets, not even the office furniture belong t them.

If you are a hotelier I would suggest you contact Vasilis and / or Aimon at +44 871 226 7838 at Libra Holidays C/o Castle House 21 Station Road New Barnet Hertfordshire EN5 1PH or email at admin@allburytravelgroup.com and try to get your money for the year 2008 and think about accepting bookings from them. In my opinion the only bookings you could accept is pre-paid bookings before customer arrival.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Quality Tourist Facilities in Cyprus

Paphos is probably the area of Cyprus with more tradition in what we call Quality Tourism, a term I hate using since there is not such a thing as Quality Barometer. Tourism is an activity that obtains quality when the end user obtains an experience that gives him or her personal satisfaction, so there is no way to measure this.

Nevertheless there are certain very basic things such as cleanliness, friendliness and other that are Good Experience Factors.

Today, Sunday 21st of June I took some time with my family to visit the free north part of Cyprus, the area of Polis in Paphos district. Probably still the most virgin tourist destination in Cyprus with spectacular views and quiet beaches.

After our bath in Pomos, a small village 15 kms from Polis, we stopped at the Camping Site of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation to have a last swim there and an ice-cream with the kids.
And it then where I fully understood the term of Quality Tourism Facilities. The pictures were taken today. Enjoy the view and I strongly recommend you visit the place. Honestly if those incometent people were not running the place then you would be in the one of the most spectacular sceneries in the Mediterranean. In Greek we have a saying.. “ Τοπος είναι ο ανθρωπος” meaning “how good a place is is how its people is”.