RIYADH: Cyprus Deputy Minister of Tourism Kostas Koumis said that Saudi Arabia and Cyprus can gain inspiration from one another to achieve flourishing tourism during the UN World Tourism Organization’s World Tourism Day, held in Riyadh.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Koumis said that the Kingdom has nailed down infrastructure and luxury.
“In my eyes, Saudi Arabia is a well-established destination already. We are staying in a very nice hotel, with luxury,” he said.
The minister highlighted that the Kingdom has shown commitment to developing its tourism through the launch of the Riyadh School for Tourism and Hospitality.
“For a country like Saudi Arabia, which is trying to develop the tourism industry again and again, I would say that it is very important to invest in the labor force, in education,” he said.
“Probably Cyprus will get inspiration from Saudi Arabia, seeing as the minister of tourism of Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Al-Khateeb, announced today that Saudi Arabia is planning to open the largest tourism academy in the world, in cooperation with the UN World Tourism Organization,” he added.
The minister said that the key to returning visitors is the Cypriot culture of “philoxenia,” meaning “friend to a stranger.”
He added: “But probably, Saudi Arabia could get inspiration from Cyprus, if we take into consideration that Cyprus is a well-known destination for more than 40 years already. As a country, we invest a lot in what we call ‘philoxenia.’ In other words, we invested a lot in the value of hospitality.”
Koumis pointed out that the Cypriot tourism sector is examining several ways to empower and encourage sustainable development.
He said: “We are actually examining the possibility of special incentive schemes to those developments, taking into consideration the environment. I like to say, and during the event today, during this morning, it is not important to talk about investments only.”
“It is very important to talk about the quality of investments and environmentally friendly investments,” he added.
In 2020, UNWTO reported a 74 percent loss of international tourist arrivals. Cyprus had approximately 600,000 visitors that year. In 2022, Cyprus hosted 3.2 million tourists.
“The milestones of the tourist industry in Cyprus are the year 2001, where we had 2.6 million visitors, and the year 2019, where we reached the number of 3.9 million visitors. Of course, during the COVID period, we had a huge decline, like many other countries, but in the last year, we had a very strong comeback.”
Cyprus’s rebound was a result of investment and effort, said Koumis. “How did we achieve it? It’s not a secret. Of course, in order to have the performance of 2019 and to have the performance of last year, we invested efforts and, of course, budgets to improve our country’s air connectivity.”
Koumis said that air connectivity is one of the key factors to a flourishing tourist market.
“After we achieve our good air connectivity, of course, we pay attention to promoting our country in many different destinations. Currently, we are running an online campaign in 29 countries. We are not relying on only five or six different markets. We are trying to attract visitors from many different countries.”