In July 2019, the number of 5-Star hotels in Cyprus was 26, less than half of 4-Star hotels, which was 58, according to the Cyprus Hospitality Report (KPMG). Overall, the number of ‘star’ hotels had risen by a modest 7 per cent over the last ten years. Meanwhile, the number of Airbnb ‘peer-to-peer’ bookings in 2018 alone hit 42,000 – a rise of more than two thirds (68.9per cent).
A noticeable shift appears to have taken place within short-term stay accommodation by price sensitive tourists who once sought out ‘economy hotels’. How does this affect the future of the independent boutique hotel in Cyprus?
Taste for lifestyle hotels has steadily grown
Despite a perceived growth in the peer-to-peer market, the Report has not found any “major disruption” to the traditional hotel sector. It seems that Airbnb-type accommodation may simply have filled any supply gaps in the luxury up-market hotels during peak season months.
For more than three decades, the taste for lifestyle hotels has steadily grown, and sustaining its attraction with a growing demographic, whether tourists, business-class or VIP. Cyprus ranks 3rd worldwide in travel, and as a primary tourist destination in Europe, generates more than three quarters (80 per cent) of the island’s income and employment. Record-breaking visitor figures of 3.97 million were recorded in 2019, alone.
It has meant that continuous growth in the tourism industry has triggered a number of local and international investors interested in developing luxury hotels, located mainly in the coastal areas. In 2018, hotels accounted for 12 per cent of the total value of building permits issued. Both Limassol and Nicosia attracted rising investment interest, mainly involving in existing luxury hotels, as well as the development of new facilities and infrastructure.
More than 60 per cent already considered Cyprus an all year-round destination.
One of the main targets of the Cyprus government is to expand the high tourist season beyond the traditional June to September period. The aim is to increase tourism arrivals between November and April from 24 per cent to 40 per cent by 2030. One recent tourism strategy report found that of 1,700 respondents, more than 60 per cent already considered Cyprus an all year-round destination.
Independent lifestyle hotels have long been at the forefront of providing a new generation of traveller with a meaningful experience at whatever time of the year they choose to stay. Many expect accommodation that provides a personalised experience that is novel and above all, authentic.
Discerning holidaymakers and the adventure tourist seek hotels in which they may make a cultural connection with their chosen destination, from the business executive attending a conference during the autumn to a couple on a romantic weekend away in spring or a family taking their annual summer vacation.
Every aspect of location and facilities must “look good on Instagram”
Studies repeatedly find that “a nice hotel in a good location” is no longer enough, particularly in the age of social media where every aspect of location and facilities must “look good on Instagram”, for example. Typical social sharing would highlight a distinctive concept and design, unusual choice of interior décor, specific theme based rooms, and particular “statement” furniture, ornaments, images, cultural artefacts.
A lifestyle hotel is also increasingly expected to focus upon “total wellness”, providing guests with healthy eating menus, a beauty spa, gym and sauna, yoga / meditation sessions (often on the beach). The hotel experience also aims to satisfy the culturally curious with in-house exhibitions of local arts, craft, music, dance and other folk traditions.
The role of a lifestyle hotel, which evolved as a kicking-back against the dreary standardised décor of the global chains, is understood by consumers to be clearly distinct from the Airbnb model. Boutique is also recognised as meaning an exclusive, uplifting experience – one that is increasingly demanded from travellers from all walks of life whenever they arrive in Limassol, Nicosia, Paphos, Ayia Napa or other prime destinations in Cyprus.