Minister for Tourism Giorgos Lakkotrypis said that his meetings with travel industry professionals during this week’s World Travel Market in London have made him feel “cautiously optimistic” about 2017 becoming an even better year than 2016 in terms of attracting visitors to Cyprus.

The current year is drawing to a close with estimates pointing to a record number of 3.1 million visitors to Cyprus, 1.1 million of which will have come from the UK. Arrivals from Russia and Israel have also recorded a notable rise.

“These improved numbers are down to a combination of other countries in the region experiencing difficulties and of course Cyprus being ready to welcome the increased tourist flows. Let’s not forget that in 2015, when a number of adverse circumstances weighed upon Cypriot tourism, we still managed to increase our numbers by 9%,” said the minister.

Lakkotrypis noted that the positive picture does not mean that there are no challenges to be managed, pointing to the fall of the British pound. He did however say that he is optimistic that the negative impact of the weakened sterling will be “absorbed”, as the tourism industry has already taken steps that maintain Cyprus as a good destination for British visitors.

Lakkotrypis, accompanied by the top ranking officials of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, met with representatives of Thomas Cook and TUI as well as EasyJet, Jet2 and Monarch. He also discussed various issues with tourism officials and professionals from the island that were among the tens of Cypriot exhibitors at the World Travel Market.

In terms of the objectives of his visit to London, the minister said: “Among other things, we are interested in airlines adding new flight routes, so that we are able to reach new markets.”

During a press conference at the Excel exhibition centre in east London, where the World Travel Market in being held, Lakkotrypis highlighted Cyprus’s emphasis on thematic tourism, a strategy that has diversified the island’s product and has broadened its appeal: “The island is not offering just ‘sun and sea’ anymore. With this change, along with investment in infrastructure, we have regained our competitiveness.”

He also made special reference to the plan to lengthen the tourist period.“Cyprus can’t be turned into a 12-month destination overnight. What we want to do is have hotels opening a week earlier each year and closing a week later, and that’s what has been happening with hotels shutting at the end of November this year and opening in March instead of April,”said the Cypriot Minister for Tourism.

Finally, he expressed his pride at Pafos becoming European Capital of Culture in 2017.

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