In an interaction with Travel And Tour World, Nasos Hadjigeorgiou, Executive Manager, Pafos Regional Board of Tourism shares his experience as a co-winner of EU’s 2023 European Capital of Smart Tourism competition. He also gives our readers an overview on the organisation’s role in beefing up its tourism scene in the future years.
Travel And Tour World: As the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in global tourism how has it affected Pafos’ tourism scene?
Nasos Hadjigeorgiou: Pafos is almost completely dependent on tourism and has suffered irreparable damage from the economic impact caused by the coronavirus. During the Pandemic, Pafos as the whole world has experienced a drastic reduction in tourism counted to 85% less in 2020 on total arrivals and revenue compared to 2019 levels. In 2021 we have managed to recover to 50% and 2022 recovered even more up to 80% of the 2019 numbers. Nevertheless during the years of pandemic we have experienced, decline in consumption, drop in investment, spike in unemployment, poverty increase and more.
Travel And Tour World: Please share in details with our readers about the Visit Pafos’ ongoing efforts to recover pre-pandemic footfall.
Nasos Hadjigeorgiou: Since the global air connectivity was hit hard due to the restrictions, lock down and border controls we had no other option on focus inaccelerating our efforts to enhance the tourism products and experience offered in the area. We have invested heavily in digitalization and for the year 2020 we focused on domestic travelers for partial recovery. With special deals from the hoteliers, support from the government and intensive campaigns we have manage to keep the majority of the business open and receive some revenues. Then in 2021 we have repeated the same approach while international air transport recovered a little bit, we have also invested heavily in international campaigns and promotional actions. This resulted to recover the tourism industry by 50% of the 2019 performance. In 2022 was a year of great recovery as we managed to recovertourism by 80% in total arrivals and over 85% on revenues.
Travel And Tour World: Pafos has been selected as the winner of EU’s 2023 European Capital of Smart Tourism competition. Please share your reactions to it.
Nasos Hadjigeorgiou: Pafos has seen smart tourism as an opportunity to enhance its services and image since year 2016. Since that time we are investing in all 4pillars of SMART tourism such as sustainability, digitalization, accessibility and cultural heritage and creativity.
The city in the last 2 years has invested over 25 million in smart infrastructure projects while we as the tourism board invested heavily in smart apps, digital content, smart signs, creative tourism, accessibility and more.
We were very happy to see that all our efforts, the plans we have prepared as well as the involvement of local residents, stakeholders and policy makers have all been appreciated by the European commission and selected Pafos as one of the two Co capitals of Smart Tourism 2023.
Here in Pafos, we are all very excited since we have put in place a wide range of activities and actions to be implemented in 2023 and during the next coming years. The title is expected to elevate the image of the destination globally but also provide us with funding opportunities from National and European funding schemes. As from the beginning of the year we are implementing a specific action plan towards a better and a smarter Pafos.
Travel And Tour World: What initiatives are taken by the Visit Pafos to boost its tourism scene?
Nasos Hadjigeorgiou: Visit Pafos every year implements an action plan focusing mainly in 3 pillars- promotion, products and experience development, as well as quality assurance. To name a few …. Development or enhancement of the experiences offered such as upgrading of digital tools, upgrading cycling and trekking experience, invest in better interpretation of places of interest and archaeological, enhance building environment especially in rural areas and more. When comes to promotion, we are heavily investing in our digital tools such as FB, Inst, You tube, websites etc while we run all year round intensive campaigns globally and nationally focus on potential travelers. In addition to the above we participate in several travel exhibitions, workshops and conferences overseas, we organize press trips and FAM trips to international business partners and press people. When comes to quality assurance we have set up a mechanism that we analyze feedback from clients and partners. Annual customer satisfaction survey is also taking place collecting very important data. All feedback taken is communicated to each responsible party in order to take corrective actions and monitor progress. Quality is our focus. Our main aim is to transform Pafos from a sun and see destination to a modern innovative destination.
Travel And Tour World: What are the top attractions in Pafos that you would like to highlight for someone visiting the region?
Nasos Hadjigeorgiou: Pafos is an all-year round destination, one of the most beautiful, diverse, and historically rich areas of Cyprus.
The capital of Cyprus in Roman times, the European Capital of Culture in 2017, and the European Capital of Smart Tourism 2023 is internationally known as a holiday destination. The whole city is included in the UNESCO world heritage list. It is one of the most popular areas in Cyprus and it attracts the majority of the visitors coming to the island. Pafos offers a divert tourist product and experience.
Among tons of very important places of interest/attractions we highlight the below TOP 5:
-The UNESCO Archaeological Park of Kato, Pafos
-The Medieval Castle by the Ancient Harbour
-Panagia Chrysopolitisa and the St. Paul pillar
-Old Town Pafos, including the public library, town hall and all the neoclassical buildings, create experience offering
-Pafos Coastal area–promenade, Ancient Harbour
Travel And Tour World: How many events have you secured successfully in the years post-pandemic? What are your plans to revive Pafos’ MICE scene?
Nasos Hadjigeorgiou: The area every year attracts or organizes a series of events. From concerts to art exhibitions and shows, parades open air festivals and more. It is also a popular area for MICE especially for up to 500 participants in indoor venues.
When it comes to actions to revive Pafos MICE scene we follow a series of initiatives such as:
We listen to what travelers and DMO are sayingin order to contentiously adopt into new trends and needs.
We look at where the market is going.
We constantly analyzing travel data to identify who has been visiting, for what purpose, and how that compares to competitive destinations.
How do we benchmark against our competitors?
We identify and we reposition the destination to attract MICE. As a destination we are planning a concrete digital strategy and messaging for convention centers, visitor bureaus and tourism authorities.
Designate several stakeholders to focus on marketing MICE. From digital marketing campaigns that respond to the social, web, and search footprint of the consumer to B2B Conference Exhibitions targeting lead generation.
Last but not least another very important part of the puzzle to revive MICE is to secure efficient/frequent air connectivity with source markets, an area where we are very active.
Travel And Tour World: Where do you wish to see Pafos’ tourism industry in the next five years?
Nasos Hadjigeorgiou: We would like Pafos to be one of the most attractive destinations in the eastern med, to remain the most popular tourism destination in Cyprus, and a destination that is active all year round.
Our strategy is inspired by the vision…Pafos region, to become a quality destination where visitors can enjoy a wide range of experience and will contribute towards sustainable tourism development, respecting the natural environment and cultural heritage
We mainly focus on 3 goals. Ease seasonality by expanding the season from March –Dec every year. Increase travelers per head spending and take rational initiatives towards protection of the environment and the cultural heritage.
In addition, we are working to balance the customer mix and source markets attracted in the area, securing efficient air transport all year round and elevate the image and the digital presence of the destination globally.
Lastly, we envision Pafos in the next 5 years to enjoy a very insignificant unemployment rate, over 20,000 beds out of 30,000 to remain in operation all year round and more individual average to up market travellers visiting the region