George Misirlis - Cyprus Profile

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Insights | 14 February 2020 | Aphrodite Hills Resort Cyprus

George Misirlis, CEO, Aphrodite Hills Resort Cyprus

We are the ideal Mediterranean destination in whatever way one approaches this. Fortunately, more and more specialised professionals are getting involved and are contributing in bringing new, innovative ideas, along with fresh energy towards the sustainability of a high tourism image, which we already have around the world.

What is your forecast regarding the sector – locally, regionally and internationally?

Tourism has changed from being a service industry offering you a flight and room and board, to offering experiences. Travel is more about adventure as well as fulfilment. A family traveling nowadays expects experimental travel. Travellers are searching for a real destination, a place that will offer them different sorts of experiences and brand-new feelings that they will be able to take back home.

This is the new tourism reality and everyone in the sector is aware of it. So, taking this into consideration, we believe that we are now on our way to a glorious tourism future. A different, but better tourism and for an extended period. Technology has made our world smaller and the competition bigger. And when we say competition, we mean healthy competition that pushes tourism professionals to become better and offer the best possible ‘product’. Today, tourism is growing very well.

Which, in your opinion, are the major trends that will shape the future of the sector in the coming years?

Traveller experience will drive more loyalty than points and miles which used to be a trend and a major incentive few years ago. Tourism has changed. We are now dealing with more sophisticated and demanding travellers, which leads to creation of a new tourist product. They search for experiences that are unique and authentic. The tourism professionals who prioritise the quality of the delivered experience and destinations are the ones who will thrive in the future.

Mobile and online booking will grow even more. This allows tourism professionals to interact with pre-trip experience as well as the post-trip experience. Online reviews have the most impact on bookings so the need to manage a destination’s reputation online will become even more important.

It is a well-known fact that the 30s – 50s traveller is more interested in a relaxing getaway, while the 65+ is interested in adventure or even opportunities to socialise. Travel providers should create tours and activities that appeal to their travellers’ lifestyles.

The need to create experiences that are educational and unique to the destination will become more important. Thematic tourism is the future. Furthermore, tourism marketing techniques and approaches will change rapidly.

How would you describe the overall state of the industry in Cyprus today?

Tourism is a key sector for the economic development of Cyprus, and crucial also to job creation. Taking its wider indirect and induced impacts into account, the sector sufficiently contributed to the economy and significantly supported employment in the past years.

We are the ideal Mediterranean destination in whatever way one approaches this. Fortunately, more and more specialised professionals are getting involved and are contributing in bringing new, innovative ideas, along with fresh energy towards the sustainability of a high tourism image, which we already have around the world.

The establishment of a Junior Ministry for Tourism, which was recently approved by Parliament, will give a great boost to the tourism sector whilst it will ensure the implementation of strategies with clear targets that will lead to the upgrading and promotion of our tourism product. For all the above reasons, the future of the tourism industry in Cyprus seems very promising.

Which countries do you expect to provide the highest number of tourists in the coming years?

Globally, United Kingdom is one of the top five spenders on outbound tourism. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the outbound tourism expenditure of UK travellers is projected to reach US$102 billion by the end of 2024. This market will continue to be by far the biggest for Cyprus tourism.

The Russian market is also very important, despite the sensitivity related to the exchange rate fluctuation. We need to work even harder on this market and enrich the experiences visitors may enjoy on our island.

European outbound tourism is a key component of the travel industry in Europe and an important market for tourist destinations worldwide. Europeans tend to travel most frequently within Europe. The open skies policy of Cyprus is very important for these destinations and we are expecting increased numbers in the next few years.

We see a big increase in outbound markets from the East, especially the Middle Eastern and Indian markets. The Chinese market is also growing very fast. Flight availability and connections are very important for the far east destinations.

Do you expect the quality of tourists coming to Cyprus to improve in the coming years? Please explain.

A high-quality product will attract high-quality travellers. If we provide quality destinations combined with quality experiences, then of course we will attract quality tourism. Cyprus is a unique destination. The island has sunny weather all year round, amazing natural beauty, 10,000 years of ancient history and stunning coastlines with golden sandy beaches.

The growing trend of interests of modern tourists are to be taken into serious consideration. We must concentrate on thematic tourism to provide the ultimate experience. Our unique weather and beautiful beaches are of course not enough to attract visitors from abroad. We must combine them with gastronomy and wine, sports, religion, environment, health and well-being, history and culture, eco and agrotourism in a very structured and effective manner.

We will not create a brand new tourism product. The product is here. We must promote it accordingly and then yes, the quality of tourism in Cyprus will improve.

How important do you expect the role of all-inclusive packages to be in the coming years?

World travellers find their way to numerous all-inclusive resorts all over the world. For these people, this mode of tourism is the culmination of a year full of hard work and saving money for their holidays. Clearly, there is market demand for all inclusive. All-inclusive package holidays play a major role in the tourism development of sun and sea destinations. It is also very important to take into consideration that when a hotel or resort transforms into an all-inclusive premise, new jobs are created within the business.

However, thematic tourism allows travellers to come out from the all-inclusive state and spend money on more experiences. It all depends on what sort of traveller a hotel or resort wishes to attract. We are not creating all-inclusive travellers. They exist, and we satisfy them by offering them what they need. But at the same time, we can attract and satisfy the thematic traveller as well as the self-catering visitor.

After 2013, major investments have taken place in the tourism sector, especially in hotel infrastructure. Do you expect this trend to continue for much longer?

The world economy has a major impact on the future of international travel. With a flourishing world economy, more people will travel.

Despite the increasing and unpredictable shocks from political instability, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters, tourism continued to show resilience.

Over the longer term, growth of the tourism sector will continue to be strong, as long as countries continue to invest in the necessary infrastructure.

Tourism infrastructure is the basis of tourism development and utilisation of existing destination resources. Tourism infrastructure includes a large number of services, necessary to meet the needs of modern tourists and increase satisfaction during their stay at the destination.

Further investments in tourism infrastructure is not a trend, it is a must.

In an over-indebted economy, banks are looking into finding viable projects to finance. How helpful is that for a tourism-related business so that the cost of finance remains at low levels?

Of course, banks are always looking for viable and sustainable projects to finance. We can safely argue that projects closely related to a growing tourist industry are fully aligned with the above criteria and qualify for long-term financing with very attractive interest rates. In fact, this is the situation in Cyprus at present.

Which do you believe will be the biggest opportunities of the sector in the near future?

There are always new opportunities in the tourism industry. We need strategies to boost demand and help to keep tourism coming in and of course keep the workforce employed. The more travellers we attract the more facilities we need. Improving service standards is more important than decreasing prices. The opportunity is around us. Cyprus itself is the opportunity. We must use it with intelligence and with respect both to our country and to our visitors.

Which do you believe will be the biggest challenges in the future?

There is a very thin line between opportunities and challenges when it comes to Cyprus tourism. Even though one may see it as an opportunity, it is also a challenge to attract new types of tourists and entice more to return. New tourism products and destinations need to be developed. The real challenge is to promote our unique product while making sure to minimise the risk of destroying it.

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