An island steeped in history and culture, Cyprus is having a moment.
The Mediterranean island, which is officially the Republic of Cyprus, set records for tourism in 2019 and, after a pandemic drop, reached about 90% of tourism revenues in 2022, a big marker for a country that has long relied on inbound travel to drive its economy.
This week, H.E. Savas Perdios, Cyprus' Deputy Minister of Tourism, spoke to TMR about what’s happening on the island and how its focus is now showcasing all it has to offer to North American travelers. Here’s what he said, plus some basic information about the island of Cyprus.
Where is Cyprus?
Cyprus is an island located in the northeastern Mediterranean Sea, west of Lebanon, north of Israel, and south of Turkey. It’s the third largest island in the region, with an area of just above 3,500 sq. miles. According to VisitCyprus, the population of the island is less than one million.
What is the weather?
VisitCyprus calls the climate an “intense Mediterranean climate” with long dry summers and mild winters. Temperatures during the hottest months of July and August can go up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and typically sit somewhere between there and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. During the winter, the temperature in some places can drop to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
The summers, which last from mid-May to mid-October, feature about 11.5 hours of bright sunshine per day.
What are the major hubs?
The main hub is Larnaca International Airport, which is located just southwest of the city of Larnaca. The other hub is Paphos International Airport, the country’s second-largest airport located in Paphos.
There are no direct flights to Cyrpus from North America, but there are a number of directs from some major European hubs including London, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, Athens, Zurich, and more. There are also direct flights from Tel Aviv and Aman, both just an hour’s flight from Cyprus.
How big is tourism in Cyprus?
Tourism accounts for about 20% of Cyprus’ GDP, whether directly through vacation segment purchases or indirectly through what visitors are doing and spending on the island. The island had 3.2 million arrivals in 2022, not including cruise line arrivals, with an average stay of 10 nights.
The biggest slice of arrivals comes from the U.K. (about one-third of all arrivals) followed by visitors from the European Union (10 to 15 different specific countries each have about 5% of arrivals). The rest come from the Middle East, including growing markets such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.
North America doesn’t account for a substantial portion of that tourism—Perdios told TMR that just about 60,000 total visitors came from North America in 2022. However, the hope is that will now change with a renewed focus on the North American traveler.
“We have yet to do much promotion to North America because we wanted to be sure we have the product available to satisfy the North American traveler,” he said. “We now feel confident and comfortable we have the product that will be to their liking.”
There’s a long history of tourism in Cyprus, particularly as a sun-and-sea destination that caters to European travelers. Still, there’s also a current push to change the travel identity of the island, Perdios told TMR.
“We no longer want to talk about Cyprus as an island just for sun and sea, but also one now for culture and authentic experiences year-round,” he said. “We want the secondary and tertiary destinations within Cyprus, those outside of the beach, to be able to sustain themselves.”
One of the initiatives part of that push is called “Colorful Villages of Cyprus,” which was launched in the first half of 2022. Colorful Village aimed to showcase the identity of smaller villages around Cyprus and promote them as destinations for nature, agrotourism, culture tourism, and more.
Six villages were part of that initiative—Kalopanagiotis, Steni, Vouni, Arsos, Kritou Terra, and Lania.
Lofou village. Photo: Shutterstock.com
VisitCyprus is also trying to showcase the island’s gastronomy offerings, which is “an exotic blend of Greek and Middle Eastern cultures,” it says. That includes promoting the Quality Label for Cypriot Gastronomy, a public-private partnership to promote, among other things, restaurants that represent Cyprus cuisine.
Another initiative that VisitCyprus hopes will bring travelers outside the beaches and cities is a promotion of the island’s wine routes. The country boasts itself as the home to the world’s oldest named wine still in production—Commandaria, proclaimed by Richard the Lionheart as the “wine of the kings and the king of the wines.”
VisitCyprus is promoting seven different wine routes as part of the initiative.
It’s all about showcasing what Cyprus is—and isn’t—to potential vacationers.
“We will never be Turkey or Saudi Arabia – we are a small island with authenticity, that’s not over-visited, with small-scale accommodations. We are simply trying to be more refined,” Perdios told TMR.
What are the major hotels?
Cyprus has a big portfolio of luxury and mid-market hotels. Perdios told TMR that the hotel landscape in the destination has really evolved over the last decade or so.
“A lot of interesting things have been happening,” he said. “There’s been massive upgrades and new four- and five-star accommodations opening up around the island. We’ve also seen a lot of boutique properties open, as well, whether in the city centers or beachfront.”
New legislation passed over the last few months also adds to that evolution. Perdios said that the legislation helps add some unique accommodations, including forest shelters, glamping areas, hostels, and rooms in wineries and farms to the market. The goal is to attract a new type of niche visitor that tends to trend younger, someone that Perdios says is the island’s next ideal traveler.
What should travel advisors know?
“The best thing to do in order to learn about Cyprus directly is to contact the Ministry of Tourism,” Perdios said. “We are very happy to arrange webinars, training, and FAM trips into Cyprus. The easiest thing is to get in touch with the Ministry directly.”
The great thing for advisors selling Cyprus is the long average stay—according to Perdios, the 10-day average stay allows you to work less hard to get a higher commission.
“The 10-night average stay I think is a huge selling point for them,” he said.
Also, around 30% of all visitors to Cyprus are return travelers, which Perdios attributes to not being an over-visited destination, and having an industry, and population, that allows for a level of personalization not found in many other places.