Well, in all fairness, it wasn’t through Cyprus per se. It was more like a discovery of Limassol. And then Paphos and its surrounds.
Here’s the thing though. I’ve been living here for 11 years and in all that time, I never once thought to experience even a little facet of Cyprus as a tourist does. Because that’s how I felt, truth be said. A tourist in my own home.
And it’s when I came to the realisation that I was one of many individuals living here who had never actually thought to take a road trip. Like a tourist would. To discover a side of Cyprus that was exponentially more than just about the sun, sea and sand.
You see. I think this is where we have gone wrong. Why Cyprus hardly ever seems to appear on a bucket list of places to go in any international travel publication. Anywhere.
Because we simply have very little appreciation for everything that this island actually HAS to offer.
My 75 year old father-in-law acted as my tour guide for those days in Limassol. And then in Paphos. And the surrounds. And it was through his eyes, a man who loves this island unlike many of my generation do, that I became absorbed in the culturally rich history that we as a people possess.
He described the tales of the ancient relics that abound here and which we went to see. Amazing stories that could fill the pages of a very big thick book.
And it was at that point that I started questioning, for a country that has a history that is the history of many cultures aside from our own, why do we only present to the world the sun? And the sea. And the sand.
It’s not to say that our natural architecture isn’t mind-blowing. It is. And yes, I’m no fool. These are all great assets that Cyprus has to drive tourism here. But at some point, the cliché island experience becomes stale. And other avenues for bringing international travellers here need to be explored.
It was recently said by Elena Tanou, Vice President of Top Kinisis Travel Plc, in Gold News that Cyprus needs to once again become a year-long destination. I couldn’t agree more. But this means then that we need to take a holistic approach to how we promote not just some of what we have, but all of what we possess. We need to captivate the world’s imagination with our archaeology, our mythology and our legends. We need to give them a tantalizing peek into the history of our people that inevitably includes the history of theirs taking into account the many that have passed by through the centuries. So that they are enticed to then come here and learn not only about us but also the impact that a host of other cultures have had here and that still resonate everywhere.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not only what lies on Cyprus’ coastline that should serve as the go to draw card to driving tourism.
We need to look within. To the archaeological ruins that dot our terrain, a treasure trove of world heritage sites and fascinating ancient relics. To the landscape that exists on the slopes of our mountains. To the agrotourism eco-retreats who have managed to restore hundred year old houses into spectacular sanctuaries. To the quaint and quirky old stone villages and towns with their cobbled streets that seem to take you further back in time with every step you take. To the local wineries who are trying their damndest to put Cyprus wine on the global map. To a local cuisine that can satisfy the fussiest of culinary palettes.
And we need to look to the past and make it fashionable to bring it back to the now.
Because our past is our story.
And let me tell you. It’s an enthralling story to be told!