Friday, October 12, 2012

A new era in Managing Tourism - Cyprus should set new goals

We are heading towards the end of another summer season. Soon we will hear the voice of smug satisfaction from the mouths of those in charge of tourism in Cyprus. They will tell us: - “We have had a 3, 34% increase in arrivals, with 7.3% increase in income from last year, this means we are doing well”.

‘My goodness’, you say to yourselves-‘we are doing well, even better than expected’. –But - the $64.000 question has to be: - What exactly did our tourist experts do in order to present us with these apparently improved statistics. .

This year the circumstances have been highly favourable in that we had the Russian tourists who filled some gaps, the UK and German markets had left behind.  And more, much more than this, is in our “favour” with the Middle East under siege, our small tranquil island then became a peaceful summer oasis for travelers.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that we should now be managing tourism as a natural resource, the same way Denmark for example manages their oil resources.  In order to do this the major tourism agency of Cyprus, and I mean, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (C.T.O.) will now have to swiftly evolve to become a creditable engine of sustainability and not, as it currently operates as an engine of sterile promotion.
The C.T.O. have to radically change its modus operandi away from their purely policing policy, and move into the serious role of being an effective professional consultant, offering much needed expertise for business owners. Key to this 21stCentury thinking has to be the radical and much needed break away from the political handcuffing it currently struggles under, and the entire organisation needs to run by true travel professionals.

Yes, there were the good old days, when three of four agreements with the so called large tour operators were sufficient to satisfy the short term need of filling those empty rooms. But, times have changed, marketing to the masses is dead, we will swiftly forget the term e-tourism, soon we will only talk about m-tourism (mobile tourism).  We predict the next 5 years will see more smartphone and tablet users than the combined population of France and the UK. That also means our travel products will have to become mobile and be much more engaging, but, to achieve this aim we do need to become a truly sustainable travel entity.

Becoming a world class sustainable travel destination will certainly not take us out of the recession, but it will lead us to a more equally shared travel pie the slice of which will give jobs to the young, create investment opportunities for the foreign investor, and assure state and private funding for generations to come.

Today, Cyprus is straddling the two concepts of sustainability and feasibility, the point being a feasible business is not necessary a sustainable one, but a sustainable business is definitely a feasible one.
‘And now that the end is near’-, we should learn from the example set by the third world Colombian Amazon village of Nazareth. This community do not allow tour operators and travel agents to bring tourists into the Amazon jungle, it’s the indigenous people who take care of all accommodation, guidance, information, and general hospitality, the end result is travelers appreciate much more this human user friendly approach compared to the one we have long adopted which is to “cater to meet needs “.

The Colombian Amazon, and the rainforests are no more, or less, important than the Akamas, and British tourists who visit Sumatra and Nazareth are banned from careering around in Quad bikes in their protected environments. Why then are tourists allowed to do it here?

We seem to be many miles away as far as comprehending how important tourism is as a long term natural resource, one that can and should feed us all- if handled properly, one that will allow businesses to flourish, and importantly, one that we can pass on not with regret ‘that we didn’t see it through without exemption’-but with pride, for the next generation to keep on nurturing.

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