NEW YORK -- Cyprus has been attracting distinguished visitors since
the dawn of Western European history -- big names such as
Cleopatra, Alexander the Great and Richard the Lionhearted.
But not all visitors have been friendly: During the last 9,000
years, this easternmost island in the Mediterranean has been
conquered by the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Romans, Crusaders,
Venetians, Ottomans and British.
Centuries later, the British continue their invasion, as Cyprus
has become one of their favorite vacation spots.
Travelers from the U.K. account for 1.3 million of the 2.7
million visitors who came to the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite
Arrivals from the U.S. remain limited, acknowledged Nicos Ronaldis,
minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, who said, "It is time
to increase our destination sales efforts in the U.S. market from
which we receive only 30,000 visitors annually."
For Ronaldis, the immediate goal is to double that number, an
effort he said the U.S Cyprus Tourist Organization is working
toward through a modest advertising campaign and participation in
23 trade shows, including the European Travel Commission roadshow
for agents as well as its own travel agent seminars scheduled for
But the best way to achieve continued growth is to introduce
direct air service from the U.S. to Cyprus, said Ronaldis.
Currently, American travelers to Cyprus connect through other
European destinations, with London and Amsterdam the most prominent
While he did not say that Cyprus Airways, the national carrier,
has made the commitment for such a big step, Ronaldis indicated
that plans under consideration for startup service include
twice-weekly flights in the low season, four-times weekly in the
high season. The carrier also is weighing the possibility of a
summer charter program, according to Ronaldis.
"A direct air link
to the U.S. would not only contribute to the growth of our tourism
industry," Ronaldis said, "but would support the general business
sector, which enjoyed more than a 20% annual increase in GNP during
the last few years."
Sea links have traditionally been important to Cyprus, and the
country's major effort to promote the country as a port of call on
Mediterranean sailings "has paid off handsomely, with 7% annual
increase in cruise passengers annually over the last decade and a
13% increase in 1999 alone," said Ronaldis.
International cruise companies booked into the island's port
city of Limassol in 2000-2001 include Classical, Costa,
EuroCruises, First European, Holland America, Princess,
Renaissance, Royal Olympic, Silver Seas and Swan Hellenic.
"We hope that once cruise passengers get a sampling of Cyprus,
they will return to spend longer vacations and benefit from our
wide range of visitor attractions and superior resort hotel
infrastructure," he added.
The well-traveled, well-educated U.S. visitor is the audience
that Ronaldis feels will be attracted to a Cyprus vacation.
Highlights of such a trip are archaeological sites;
treasure-filled museums; a dramatic coastline dotted with
fashionable beaches; the forested Troodos Mountains, noted for
their Byzantine churches; quaint villages; biking and hiking
trails, and a full calendar of cultural events and traditional
Deluxe properties in the country include several five-star
hotels in Paphos, such as the 176-room Anassa (a member of
Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide), the 198-room Annabelle
and the 421-room Leptos Coral Beach, just north of the historic
In Nicosia, international chains are represented by
Inter-Continental's four-star 194-Forum Nicosia and the 298-room
Nicosia Hilton, while the talk of the town of Limassol is the
301-room Le Meridien Limassol Spa & Resort, whose new spa wing
opened last June.