HALHARA

Cyprus sees Saudi Arabia as a potentially significant tourism market

Deputy Minister of Tourism Kostas Koumis described Saudi Arabia as a potentially significant tourism market for Cyprus.

The minister’s comments were made during his visit to Saudi Arabia this week, with the visit coinciding with the opening of air connections between Cyprus and Saudi Arabia after a number of years, marking a favorable opportunity for tourism flows.

According to a statement by the Deputy Ministry of Tourism released on Thursday, Koumis visited the three cities from which flights operate to Cyprus, Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam.

There, he met with over 70 tourism professionals “in an effort to enhance the visibility of our country in this sizable market”.

Koumis also met with senior executives from various airlines. On Wednesday afternoon, upon his arrival in Dammam, near the Bahrain border, he met with the President and other officials of the commercial chamber of the Asharqia region.

Also, on Tuesday, the Deputy Minister of Tourism gave an interview to Arab News, while additional interviews are scheduled with other Saudi Arabian media outlets.

“The Saudi Arabian market is a very large one that places great importance on tourism year after year,” Koumis said, according to the announcement.

“I would say it is a potentially significant market for our country,” Koumis added.

He also emphasised that the Deputy Ministry of Tourism closely monitors developments in this specific market, citing the tourism sector’s high priority for Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.

What is more, Koumis highlighted the establishment of a new airline, Riyadh Air, with ambitious plans, adding that Cyprus is only three hours away from certain cities in this vast market.

“This is an additional advantage for our country, and of course, we must capitalize on it,” the minister stressed.

Furthermore, the Deputy Minister of Tourism underscored the importance of bringing the tourism communities of the two countries closer together.

He expressed hope that this would be achieved through the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the two countries, which was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers earlier this year.

The visit to Saudi Arabia by Deputy Minister Koumis reflects Cyprus’s efforts to explore and tap into new tourism markets, diversify its tourist arrivals, and strengthen bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia in the tourism sector.

In terms of looking to the Gulf states for tourism, Koumis has previously stated that “Cyprus can never again become a two-market destination as it has been for decades”, juggling the UK and Russian markets that together accounted for more than half of annual arrivals.

Since the loss of Russian visitors, Cyprus has been looking to boost smaller markets to make up the numbers, seeing some success from Europe and a growing number of people from Israel last year.

Israel has now become the island’s biggest market after the UK with 277,397 Israeli arrivals last year, nowhere near the number of Russians at their peak of around 800,000.

Regarding Saudi Arabian tourists in particular, according to the media outlet Tourism Review, an estimated 5 million people are expected to travel abroad for their holiday this summer.

“Last year, Saudi tourists spent around SR60 billion during their summer holidays abroad but this year their expenditures are likely to increase by another eight percent due to an increase in fares, accommodation, travel, and transport rates as a result of the appreciation of foreign currencies,” Nasser Al-Tayyar, chairman of the Al-Tayyar Group of Companies, told the outlet.

Tourism Review also noted that in 2022, 70 per cent of Saudi Arabian tourists travelled to regional destinations.

However, in 2023, there is growing interest in countries such as South Korea, China, New Zealand, and Australia.

Finally, the outlet explained that wealthier Saudis have a preference for visiting Italy, France, Austria, and Switzerland.

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