News that the number of UK tourists fell by 6.8% in 2010 cast a small grey cloud over the 300-plus days of annual sunshine enjoyed in Cyprus. As Brits make up nearly half of the inbound market any dip is noticeable.
However, with operators reporting buoyant sales, and the island having seen a 5% year-on-year increase in bookings for summer 2011, it looks like the sun has come out again.
Gary Boyer, head of purchasing at Classic Collection Holidays, says the operator’s bookings for Cyprus finished 4% up for winter 2010-11, with summer 2011 sales showing a 35% increase. Generally speaking, walking and activity holidays are on the up, and figures also show that 20% of sales are for three to five-night breaks, bucking the perception that Cyprus caters solely for traditional seven and 14-night stays.
Cyplon managing director Harry Hajipapas also reports an increase in the number of people travelling to Cyprus for shorter breaks of about four nights.
“Having said that, the most popular duration among our customers is now for between seven and 10 nights compared to the 14-night duration that used to be the most booked,” he adds.
This feedback is music to the ears of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, whose recent marketing activity, including the Cyprus in Your Heart branding, is geared to show the diverse appeal of the Mediterranean’s third largest island beyond the obvious attraction of year-round sun.
“The philosophy behind the new brand is that Cyprus is an island of contrasts, offering countless possibilities and choices, whether it is the beautiful sandy beaches, exciting historical sites, mouth-watering cuisine, wonderful scenery or the genuine hospitality of the locals,” says Orestis Rossides, the CTO’s director for the UK and Ireland.
With a flight time of four-and-a-half hours, increased airlift, daily flights from Manchester, Heathrow and Gatwick, and weekly flights from regional airports, it’s easy to see the appeal of Cyprus as a destination for long weekends and short breaks.
What’s more, sun is virtually guaranteed, making winter and shoulder-season stays a good-value choice, either for relaxing on the beach or taking in Unesco-listed cultural attractions such as Kourion and the Tombs of the Kings.
A top short-break destination is Larnaca. The island’s third-largest city is only 10 minutes from the airport and there’s plenty to see and do on Larnaca’s lively mile-long promenade, which is lined with shops, restaurants, bars and pubs, so clients don’t have to venture far afield.
Cyprus is an emerging golfers’ paradise where players can tee off year-round in an ideal Mediterranean climate. In the absence of wind and rain the only things likely to put golfers off their stroke are the breathtaking views from the greens. Mainly located in the Paphos region, courses are away from the bustle of the main resorts but easily accessible.
New for 2011 is Elea Golf Club, dubbed Nick Faldo’s Mediterranean masterpiece. The 71-par course is centrepiece of the Elea Estate where an on-site boutique hotel and spa is due for completion in summer 2012.
Already well established on the Cyprus golf scene is Aphrodite Hills, the five-star resort complex with plenty on offer for golfing widows and for non-golfers travelling with players.
Golf at Aphrodite Hills, Cyprus
A former British colony until 1960, Cyprus’s historical links have always made it popular with the mature market, with many repeat visitors and a large number of ex-pats living on the island.
But it also has plenty to offer families, with safe beaches, a relaxed lifestyle, tavernas and restaurants that actively welcome youngsters, and accommodation ranging from self-catering to all-inclusive hotels with kids’ clubs and excellent family facilities. Recent developments include a new children’s activity centre, Pirates Village, at Aphrodite Hills.
An added bonus is that everyone speaks English and it’s easy for families to hire a car and get around as Cypriots drive on the left.
While Cyprus doesn’t immediately spring to mind as a budget destination there are good deals to be found. Sales of Sunvil’s core product, self-catering villas, remain steady and the operator reports plenty of interest in the rural boutique hotels recently introduced to the programme. These properties, plus village rooms, are excellent for clients seeking a really authentic experience.
Olympic Holidays has seen a swing towards Paphos, which has a good choice in the three and four-star bracket for clients who don’t want to stay in the resort’s five-star hotels.
New to Olympic’s 2011 budget Smart Choice brochure are the four-star Crown Resorts Horizon at Coral Bay and a trio of three-star hotels – the Agapinor in Paphos, Nissiana in Ayia Napa and Crown Resorts Henipa in Larnaca.
Hotel choice: Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri
Tucked away on the south coast, five-star all-suite Columbia Beach Resort is a tranquil, relaxing hideaway well suited to couples. Many of the 94 well-appointed low-rise suites surround the lagoon-style pool, with steps leading to the garden, pretty domed chapel, promenade and beach, where watersports run from April to November.
Dining options include the informal Apollo, based on a traditional Cypriot taverna, and the fine-dining Dionysos Restaurant. The hotel has its own bakery and the bread is irresistible. Afterwards, work out in the gym or find your inner Aphrodite in the good-sized spa. A neighbouring sister property, the 116-room Columbia Beachotel, is a good choice for families.
Sample product: Classic Collection Holidays offers seven nights’ bed and breakfast in a garden view junior suite at Columbia Beach Resort from £1,177 for travel in July, including flights with Cyprus Airways from Heathrow and transfers.
Book it: classic-collection.co.uk, 0800 008 7288
Sunvil Holidays has seven nights’ B&B at Antony’s Garden House, a 19th-century village inn at Episkopi, from £681 in August, including British Airways flights from Gatwick and car hire.
Book it: sunvil.co.uk, 020 8758 4759
Olympic Holidays offers seven nights’ self-catering at Stavrolia Hotel Apartments on the outskirts of Ayia Napa from £505 per adult and £355 per child for travel in August, based on two adults and two children sharing a one-bedroom apartment that sleeps four. Price includes Fly Hellas flights from Manchester.
Book it: olympicholidays.com, 0844 499 4449
Prestige Holidays offers seven nights’ B&B in a junior suite at the InterContinental Aphrodite Hills Resort from £4,437 for two adults and two children (aged under six) for travel in August, including Monarch flights from Gatwick.
Book it: prestigeholidays.co.uk, 01425 480400
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