Statement by the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL A.Kyprianou on AKEL’s measures to support tourism
AKEL C.C. Press Office, 19th May 2020, Nicosia
Tourism in our country’s economy amounts to approximately 15% of the GDP. The crisis caused by the pandemic has hit tourism hard. Measures must be studied to address the crisis and assist the rapid recovery of the tourist sector.
In our effort to make our own contribution with proposals towards this end, as AKEL we have elaborated a package of proposals which we will submit to the President of the Republic.
We have prepared our proposals taking into account one key factor. That is to say, it is objectively impossible, due to the uncertainty that exists, to talk about this summer season and tourism from abroad. That’s precisely why AKEL focused its efforts on proposals for its recovery after the summer, hoping that the conditions will subsequently be better. For that reason, we aim to focus our current proposals on the reshaping of Cyprus’ tourism policy and in the development of domestic tourism, with the goal of ensuring the survival and operation of as many tourism businesses as possible and the preservation of jobs, but also on their readiness to accommodate “last minute” tourists.
I will refer to our key proposals. We are sending the full text of our proposals to the President of the Republic, to the Deputy Minister of Tourism, while we shall also make public.
Among other things, we propose the following:
- The elaboration of an emergency plan to address the crisis with Safety and Health as the cornerstone of the Scheme. Our country needs to prepare itself to meet the new and strict demands on hygiene conditions with the strengthening of public health infrastructures for citizens and visitors, the issuance of a certificate in relation to COVID-19 upon entry and exit from the country, the elaboration of a holistic health and operational approach by establishing rules/standards not only for tourist areas, but also for the services related to tourism (airports, transport, museums, shopping malls, sports venues, Municipal/Public services, public spaces where people congregate).
The state needs to provide incentives to those who will proceed to make these readjustments to their buildings, procedures, equipment and staff so that they can keep up with the new needs and standards for hygiene. The securing of European funds through structural and/or other funds to subsidise tourist units should also sought in a coordinated way.
- Policy promoting Cyprus as a “Safe Healthy Destination”. Simultaneously with the above mentioned measures, a different and aggressive advertising campaign should be prepared at the right time, which should focus on the issue of health and safety of visitors to our country, promoting it as a safe healthy destination in major news networks abroad. This campaign must also be extended to social media outlets in order to attract tourists who choose a destination on their own, so that there will be a gradual as much as possible detachment from travel organizers, but also from the 2-3 countries of origin on which Cyprus’ arrivals were dependent on up until now.
- Policy to address the issue of Seasonal employment: Especially this year, due to the pandemic, there is an urgent need to extend the tourist season by targeting the Autumn months, as well as the 2021 Winter and Spring months for obvious reasons.
At this juncture, we need to focus and invest in specific actions and areas such as incentives for developing specialised and alternative tourism and incentives for developing rural tourism. In addition, the elaboration of bold programs that will have beneficial results in stimulating tourist and professional life in the countryside. State support is indispensable for the promotion of these schemes.
To complete the package of policies and actions that need to be implemented during this time so that the proper conditions for attracting tourists are created after the summer, they must be accompanied by specific parallel actions such as the simplification-acceleration of the procedures for the issuing of visas to third-country visitors and the creation of a Permanent Crisis Management Mechanism for Tourism.
With regards the strengthening of domestic tourism, proper and timely planning and generous and targeted incentives from the state need to be provided.
A necessary precondition is the strengthening of the purchasing power of households and the reduction in the price of accommodation packages and in the services provided so that they are accessible to the majority of the people.
Towards this end, incentives are also needed to boost social tourism. Social tourism has a lot to offer and has always been an integral part of our proposals. We studied the way with which social tourism was implemented during the Christofias government and we believe that it is better that it should operate in the same way today too. It will deliver and be effective because it is based on the logic of subsidising the beneficiary himself/herself with an amount whenever and wherever he/she makes use of it. A general income level could be set as a criterion, and those who receive incomes below this specific level can be considered as beneficiaries to the scheme. This can also benefit categories of workers who have borne the brunt of the crisis and are low paid workers. In addition to hotels, this scheme may include units that meet certain criteria for outdoor recreational tourism to support this aspect in practice too.
This is an important scheme that entails significant costs. However, we call on the Government to study it with an open mind, considering the benefits that will arise for all.
Last but not least, for us it is self-evident that it is imperative that as regards various government subsidies or incentives to be be given directly or indirectly, a general rule must be established that support to businesses in the tourist sector through government incentives/grants will necessarily be combined with the criterion for the non-dismissal of staff and the implementation of the Collective Agreement in the branch.
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