By Chris Elliott…….

Let’s take a close look at the prospects for the development of tourism in The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) during 2018.

On Thursday 4th January 2017 KITOB – the North Cyprus Hoteliers Association held their 27th Annual General Meeting at the Oscar Resort Hotel in Karakum, Girne.

L to R..Fethi Özboĝaҫ, Cengız Kurşat, Yusuf Nidia, Nidai Güngördü

Speeches were made by KITOB President, Fethi Özboĝaҫ, Chairman of the Businessmen’s Association, Cengız Kurşat, Tourist Guide – Yusuf Nidia, Girne Mayor – Nidai Güngördü, Lefkosa Mayor, Mehmet Harmancı, TRNC Minister of Tourism – Fikri Ataoğlu, Prof Retired (Tourism) DAU , Mehmet Altinay, and Honorary President of KITOB, John Aziz Kent.

L to R..Mehmet Harmancı, Fikri Ataoğlu, Mehmet Altinay,  John Aziz Kent

Tourism in Cyprus was being developed in Cyprus after 1960 and with its rich cultural heritage and natural beauty it could have become the Jewel in the Mediterranean but following years of inter communal violence which was being encouraged by Greece, eventually Turkey as another guarantor power intervened in 1974 to stop the fighting and attempts at ethnic cleansing and the island has remained divided ever since.

In Northern Cyprus the Turkish Cypriots had to try and rebuild their  lives and develop business with support from Turkey and following continued failure of UN peace talks, The Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was founded on 15th November 1983.

The response to this formation was the non-recognition of the TRNC by all countries as they only recognised the Greek Cypriot part of the island and the United Kingdom as the third guarantor power who refused to become involved and help Turkey stop the fighting in 1974, continues to this day in holding one of the ace cards that would unlock the Cyprus prison for the Turkish Cypriots. That key is to allow direct flights to North Cyprus from the UK against which the Greek Cypriots hold the veto under the Chicago Convention.

The history of the past UN inspired peace talks are dismal in the very least but there was a chance for reunification with the Annan Plan which was rejected by the Greek Cypriots and although the Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of this plan, they were rewarded by seeing the European Union granting the Greek Cypriot half of the island EU membership and another veto ace card.

So what has been happening since 1983 in terms of tourism?

The successive TRNC Governments have been working hard to improve North Cyprus tourism with support from Hotel owners both large and small and other NGOs involved in the tourism industry.

Despite continued veto pressure by the Greek Cypriots the TRNC are representing themselves at more and more trade shows around the world and it is very significant that during 2017 a big breakthrough was made which we wrote about in our cyprusscene article (click here) and in this article we quoted:

“Undersecretary of Ministry of Tourism and Environment Assoc. Dr. İsmet Esenyel said that this year (2017) has shown the best results of tourism in the last 42 years.  Esenyel indicated that tourism in North Cyprus has achieved a big breakthrough and growth and it has become very popular as a tourist destination.

From the results, it has shown that occupancy rates have surpassed those of previous years. “The figures demonstrate the correctness of tourism policy”.  İsmet Esenyel stated that according to the tourism statistics of 2017, the best results for 42 years have been reached and highlighted that the numerical data shows the correctness of the tourism policy which has been set out.

According to Esenyel, the number of passengers who entered through Ercan Airport from January to August 2017 has increased from 1,056,000 to 1,258,000.”

Although my Turkish is very limited and I could not follow the presentations, clearly there were different views being expressed as what could be done to improve tourism. One thing is clear with the incredible redevelopment of Ercan Airport to receive even greater numbers of visitors to Northern Cyprus in the years ahead and last year we saw many cases where non EU citizens arriving in south Cyprus  airports, who wished to cross to the north for business or pleasure, were denied entry and sent back to their own country so change is long overdue.

These actions in the south of Cyprus are yet another form of embargo on Northern Cyprus and with the UK heading for a Brexit from the EU it’s about time they lived up to their responsibility as a guarantor of the Cyprus agreement and acknowledged the fact that there is no desire for sharing of the island.

The time has come for the door to Northern Cyprus to be opened by the UK and let the world move on and solve other more troublesome issues and let the Cypriots both north and south continue to make new lives for themselves and stop trying to live in the past.