Exclusive Interview with Nasos Hadjigeorgiou, Executive Director at Pafos Regional Board of Tourism – by Cyprus in Style Magazine


A WHOLE LIFE DEVOTED TO TOURISM

MEET NASOS HADJIGEORGIOU
Executive Director, Pafos Regional Board of Tourism

Nasos Hadjigeorgiou was born in Limassol but moved to Paphos at the age of 14 years old. Apart from studying and working abroad, he has lived in Pafos ever since, and now lives in Konia, Pafos, with his wife and two children. His career in tourism started 30 years ago at the age of 17, when his family owned and operated a tourist apartment complex. He went to America and gained his Bsc degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management from the Johnson and Wales University. He went on to study, at postgraduate level, Business Administration, with a specialisation in marketing. Since 2007, he has been a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK and since 2008, he was elected as the Vice Chairman of the International Network ECTN (European Cultural & Tourism Network), which is based in Brussels. In 2014, he was appointed by the President of the Republic of Cyprus as a board member of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, where he served successfully until January 2019. Today, he is the Executive Director of the Pafos Regional Board of Tourism.

VISION FOR PAFOS: QUALITY. The development of SUSTAINABLE TOURISM with respect to the natural environment and cultural heritage.


HAVE YOU ALWAYS WORKED IN TOURISM?

After my graduation, I worked for several organisations, including cruise ships, aviation companies, hotels, tour operators, Pafos Hotelier’s Association and the Tourism Committee of the Pafos Chamber of Commerce. This gave me a full overview of the tourism industry. Since 2008, I have been employed by the Pafos Regional Board of Tourism. It is my job to promote Pafos as a destination, to Cyprus and the rest of the world. Our vision is that the Pafos region should become a quality destination, where visitors can enjoy a wide range of experiences, which will contribute towards sustainable tourism development, whilst, at the same time, always respecting the natural environment.  

Interview by Cyprus in Style Magazine: December 2019


WHAT IS THE LATEST NEWS FROM PAFOS REGARDING TOURISM?

The Pafos region is one of the most popular destinations in Cyprus, attracting over 1.5 million visitors on an annual basis. The destination is certainly changing with the area undergoing huge upgrades, which are focused on the enrichment of life for both locals and visitors.

These include important developments to the infrastructure at the beach front areas, upgrades in the centre and a host of other improvements. All organised parties, at regional level, including local authorities, travel associations and hoteliers, are working together towards a common goal, which is to create a modern infrastructure, which will raise the image and aesthetics of the region. The end result will be a new, modern, well developed and welcoming destination. QUALITY IS WHAT WILL TAKE PAFOS FORWARD.

WHICH COUNTRIES DO YOU FOCUS ON THROUGH YOUR MARKETING?

Our top priority markets are the UK, Germany, Russia, Central Europe and we are now extending to other emerging markets. Obviously, we focus on markets where our airports are served well by the airlines. Lately, due to the increase in air connections to secondary markets, we are now paying attention to new countries, including the Baltic States, Lebanon and Israel.

Apart from just countries, we also focus on segments of society, which we want to attract to come to Pafos. These change according to the season. In the summer, we focus on families and young couples, whilst in the winter and, out of season, we focus on sports tourism, conference incentives, nature lovers, long stayers and the more mature traveller. 


HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF PAFOS TOURISM?

Pafos has a great future in tourism. I am very happy to say that both local authorities and the private sector are now concentrating on quality, and working on the enhancement of the visitor experience to Pafos.

The increased numbers from 2015, until today, are a direct result of the efforts of all involved, including, the local authorities and Government departments, Pafos Regional Board of Tourism, Cyprus Tourism Board and the Deputy of the Ministry of Tourism, hoteliers, travel agents, Hermes airports and everyone in Pafos, who is involved in the industry.

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE AIMS?

We certainly have some strategic aims for Pafos. These include, but are not limited to, increasing the airlines flying into our airport. We need to fill some of the gaps that exist, and we are particularly working on improving flights from Nordic countries, France and Central Europe.

We are happy to report that there are new flight routes planned from Beirut, Malta and Germany in 2020, and possibly more flights from France.

Another aim is to make Pafos an all-year-round destination for visitors. This can be done if a satisfactory air connectivity exists, the development of our infrastructure and by utilising our existing facilities. For example, through the opening up of the Olympic size swimming pool at Yeroskipou last winter for an additional 2 months, meant that we were able to attract international swimmers to come to Pafos during this period. Over 60 national teams came to train in Pafos as a result. This extends to other areas of sports tourism.

We are also aiming to balance the visitor mix and ease the overdependence of a few specific tour operators and markets. This will take Pafos a step forward and closer to our strategic focus of making Pafos an all-year-round destination.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE REDEVELOPMENT OF PAFOS?

As a citizen and tourist professional of the city, I now have the opportunity to feel even more proud of the Pafos region. The refinement of the Old Town is of great importance, as has been the development of the beach front promenade and public beaches. The introduction of green areas and the removal of illegal extensions and signs on buildings, have also improved the visual look of the area. 2017 was the starting point for these changes. They will certainly enhance the visitor experience, and make our tourists want to return in the future.


CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT ANY CURRENT PROJECTS YOU ARE WORKING ON?

There are several. We are developing nine new cycling routes. We are also working with the Department of Fisheries to enrich the artificial reefs in the Moulia and Polis area and running several projects related to the interpretation of archaeological sites and other places of interest. We are completing a mobile app for the Unesco Archaeological Park and are installing touch screens in the visitor’s centre. 

We are in the final stages of launching an augmented reality application at Aphrodite’s birth place. Recently, we have completed the new snorkelling park in the area of the municipal baths, by introducing an underwater sculpture composition. We are involved in the European wine routes, ITER VITIS, and we are working on launching new experiences for wine lovers. We are also planning to introduce smart apps for the Bath of Aphrodite and Yeroskipou Sacred Gardens, in order to associate the myth of Aphrodite even more with Pafos. 

The implementation of Pan European projects, such as the religious route of St Paul, is a very important plan, aimed to be completed and registered in the council of Europe by 2020. In addition, a great effort is also placed in contributing to the upgrading of the aesthetics by eliminating visual pollution, upgrading the facilities of the coastal areas (lifeguards, equipment and beach facilities), improving public transport and much more.        

WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL FAVOURITE PARTS OF THE REGION?

The area around the Town Hall will always be a favourite for me, as this is where I went to school as a young boy. It is great to see the huge improvements that have taken place. I also like the area around the Lighthouse, where you can always see a mesmerising sunset and, of course, I like the castle and the harbour area. It is the boats and the views which make it special for me. Out of Pafos, I like Polis and Latchi because of the crystal-clear waters and the unspoilt, beautiful nature.

HOW DO YOU PROMOTE PAPHOS AS A DESTINATION?

The Pafos region, through the Pafos Regional Board of Tourism, undertakes a series of annual promotional actions in order to promote PAFOS AS AN ALL-YEAR-ROUND DESTINATION.

We participate in more than 15 travel exhibitions, workshops and presentations every year. Together with our partners, CTO/Deputy Ministry, hoteliers and others, we accommodate travel agents, journalists and tourist professionals from targeted markets. We continuously upgrade our print and digital promo material, brochures, films, websites and apps. We invest in digital marketing, including social media, promotional campaigns in main source areas and develop markets with strategic partners, such as airlines. We are also implementing promotional campaigns in Cyprus for domestic tourism by investing in print, broadcast media, social media, radio competitions and PR actions.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM YOU FACE IN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY?

The image that Pafos is internationally recognised as, is a one-dimensional resort and a standardised destination for, mainly, sun and sea holidays. Pafos also has to deal with the high pressure on the natural environment and cultural identity, the high operating costs of hotels with other businesses, shortages of personnel, the seasonality and the dependency on a small number of large travel organizers.

In the long run, we also need to address the over-reliance on the UK market, which is currently uncertain due to Brexit, and the possible future exchange rate fluctuation. In addition, the dependence, to some extent, on the Russian market, and the limited number of flights from markets which, we feel, we could serve well, such as France, Netherlands, Ireland, Nordic Countries etc.



WHY HAVE SO MANY TV PROGRAMMES BEEN FILMED RECENTLY IN THE PAFOS REGION?

We have been working on these for a long time. International programmes take Pafos to the world. We support filming companies looking to film here, and source them competitive hotel packages and other related services. We also assist in securing permissions to film in locations such as historical sites and the airport. It is something we are looking to expand in the future. It has two benefits; it promotes the destination but also brings in revenue from the people who are based here, very often for a long length of time. There have been many programmes filmed in Pafos in the last year, and we look forward to more in the future. We also have plans to relaunch the Pafos Regional Film Committee, which will be linked with the National Film Commission.

By Sarah Coyne