Today I received a disheartening email from the director of the Cyprus Tourism Organization office in New York City.
The CTO is permanently closing the office as an apparent money-saving measure.
The Republic of Cyprus, like Greece and some other southern European countries, has been undergoing fiscal crisis of late, and I’m sure that keeping a New York office in operation has proved expensive.
Still, this action seems incredibly short-sighted to me.
Cyprus is one of the most alluring countries to visit in all of Europe, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s off the beaten track and overlooked by most Americans.
The island is a popular sun-and-sea escape for northern Europeans, but there’s much more to see and do there than beach life.
It has an amazing history, occupying a strategic space south of Turkey, north of Egypt, east of Greece and west of Israel, Syria, and Lebanon in the eastern Mediterranean.
Over the millennia it’s been overrun by countless foreign invaders, most recently by the Turks, who now control the northern sector of the island (not recognized by any other nation besides Turkey). All the invaders have left their cultural marks — and scars — on the country.
Baby boomers may remember Cyprus from months-long news reports back in 1974 when the era’s Greek junta overthrew the republic’s first president, Archbishop Makarios III, followed a few days later by the Turkish invasion. But that was nearly 40 years ago, and Cyprus doesn’t make the news much anymore. Its financial crisis is even overshadowed by that of Greece.
The sights of Cyprus, however, are compelling. You can tour Neolithic ruins dating from 9,000 years ago; discover where and how some of the world’s first wines were produced; visit the “birthplace of Aphrodite,” the Greek goddess of love (in Greek mythology, both Aphrodite and Adonis were born in Cyprus); and stop at atmospheric mountain villages for mountainous feasts of mezza, eggplant and grilled lamb.
The cuisine is heavily influenced by Greece and the Middle East (Syria is just 65 miles away), and it’s the site of some of the biggest meals I’ve ever eaten in my life.
My wife and I enjoyed a memorable anniversary feast under an arbor in the southern port of Limassol during a stop on an eastern Mediterranean cruise a few years ago; after gorging on platefuls of appetizers, we could barely even look at the heaps of meat brought out for the main courses. Somehow we managed to stagger back to our ship, following one of our best meals ever.
Can often overlooked Cyprus afford to keep its New York tourism office open?
I would re-pose the question this way: If it wants to attract American tourists — including free-spending baby boomers traveling in search of fascinating history, beautiful scenery and incredible food — can it afford not to?
I hope the powers-that-be in Cyprus will rethink this move before the office is scheduled to close for good in mid-September.
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