The mass tourism boom in Cyprus, particularly on the southern coast, has done wonders for the economy over the past 53 years since the island’s independence in 1960. However, the island is now feeling the effects of unintended consequences. Generations are being raised on the coastlines after mountain village inhabitants moved to the busy tourist strips for jobs. In the process, they left behind an older generation of elderly natives, unattended land, and crumbling, deserted buildings.
These villages represent the authentic, natural areas of Cyprus, and have much potential for hosting successful ecotourism models that would also aid in their revival.
Ajay Goyal, President of Zening Resorts in Latchi, an eco-friendly health and wellness resort dedicated to sustainability, also recognizes the potential for ecotourism on the island. In his article titled ‘New Deal’ in Cyprus, Goyal calls for innovation among the Cypriot youth in the revival of “deserted” villages that are “losing their vigour and strength.” Goyal also touches upon ecotourism trends in Cyprus, similar to those going on in the rest of the world. Adventurous, sophisticated, and independent travellers are looking for cultural experiences in foreign lands such as Cyprus. Eco-tourists are seeking opportunities to immerse themselves in nature, culture, and tradition, all of which can be accomplished in Cyprus, and which can benefit the island as a whole. Goyal proposes youth groups to be sent to villages to innovate and revive the village life with ideas that can help local businesses and breathe life into ecotourism opportunities, many of which could be created by the youth themselves as future entrepreneurs. Not only does this provide employment for an age segment experiencing some of the highest unemployment rates in Cyprus, but it also creates new opportunities in hospitality that can bring more money to the island.
This is just one of many examples of ecotourism happening on the island. The abandonment of the “all-inclusive” model allows all kinds of tourists to immerse themselves in the culture and, as a result, spend more money in local communities in dining, entertainment, nightlife, and exploration. Perhaps this new emerging trend in Cyprus is partly behind the fact that while tourist arrivals were down in 2013, revenues had increased. The big tour operators are strongly supporting ecotourism in Cyprus. Agrotourism, often a sub-category of tourism that is included in or combined with ecotourism, has also become popular in Cyprus. Agrotourism is a tourism solution for the villages of the island as an alternative to the already crowded beach vacations. Hotels and resorts are opening in villages that allow travellers to explore the pristine natural landscape of the island while also participating in the agricultural activities of the locals. The Piskopos Resort in the village of Episkopi in Paphos offers holidays in the villages and countryside of the island with natural trails, archeological sites, and more.
The Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative (CSTI) was launched in 2006 with the purpose of promoting sustainable developments in tourism. The CSTI focuses on preservation, conservation, and environmental protection, all while helping to improve social and economic conditions in rural Cyprus. The CSTI acknowledges that sustainable tourism is a key part of Cyprus’ future, and that it is a growing trend amongst travellers worldwide. The CSTI applies the following principles to its movement:
- The preservation, conservation and the protection of the environment and the prudent use of natural resources;
- The reduction of the impact of our carbon footprint as a result of all our activities related to tourism;
- The improvement of the conditions of life in socially and economically disadvantage communities due to tourism;
- The promotion of sustainable means of achieving economic growth and regeneration
In the north, the village of Buyukkonuk, also known as “the gateway to Karpas,” is the firsteco-village in Northern Cyprus. Buyukkonuk provides an alternative to mass tourism that helps preserve the village’s local culture while promoting environment sensitivity. The eco-village is also active in the restoration of local sites, such as a local Greek church, old buildings, and ancient artwork. The Buyukkonuk eco-village allows travellers to fully immerse themselves in the local culture, farming, wildlife, history, and nature.
Hammond, Richard. “A New Form of Ecotourism in Cyprus.” Green Travel News. Green Traveller, 26 Mar. 2003. Web. 07 Jan. 2014. <http://www.greentraveller.co.uk/cyprus>.
Goyal, Ajay. “”New Deal” in Cyprus.” Philnews. Phileleftheros, 10 Nov. 2013. Web. 07 Jan. 2014. <https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MhvpELroi2_hw9t0AtScRaPyFPnD3D_v1Mn0GVc-lAQ/pub>.
Browne, Bejay. “Zening: A Lifestyle, Not a Holiday.” Business Local News. Cyprus Mail, 29 Sept. 2013. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://cyprus-mail.com/2013/09/29/zening-a-lifestyle-not-a-holiday/>.
Piskopos Traditional Resort. “Piskopos Traditional Resort.” Piskopos Traditional Resort. Piskopos Traditional Resort, 2013. Web. 10 Jan. 2014. <http://www.piskoposresort.com/>.
CSTI. “Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative (CSTI).” The Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative CSTI Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative CSTI Comments. CSTI, 2013. Web. 10 Jan. 2014. <http://csti-cyprus.org/>.
WhatsOnNorthCyprus. “Buyukkonuk Village.” Near Iskele, North Cyprus. Whatson-NorthCyprus, 2009. Web. 04 Jan. 2014. <http://www.whatson-northcyprus.com/interest/iskele/buyukkonuk.htm>.