Cypriot Gastronomy is worth a look!
by Maria Athanasopoulou
A few days ago, I was in Cyprus for business. Cyprus is a well-known tourist destination. Visitors often speak about its Mediterranean climate, its beautiful beaches and its delicious local cuisine. That said, Cyprus has many unrealized opportunities to develop its tourism further. It is a place with ancient history, with much natural beauty, a place that is sunny most of the year, a place that is warm and bright, and a place with hospitable locals. All these features give to Cyprus a unique identity. The island has the potential to become a destination that is popular with tourists year-round, not just in the summer months.
But what about local gastronomy? As an eyewitness, I assure you that the local cuisine of Cyprus is authentic and rich in flavors and aromas. Its history is centuries old and is is derived from high quality local ingredients. Food lovers will be pleasantly surprised when they travel to try the local Cypriot cuisine.
Due to its unique location and history, a special gastronomy has developed on Cyprus. Its local cuisine, which is strongly influenced by Greek, has clear influences and additions from Mediterranean, European and Middle Eastern cuisines. Its own history reveals that the islanders had traveled for commerce extensively to neighboring countries, which helped Cypriots to get to know other local cuisines. They then assimilated many elements of those cuisines, giving Cypriot cuisine today its unique colors, aromas and flavors.
Is authenticity and quality ingredients enough to lure tourists to Cyprus? We know that good local cuisine is the tool to create a sense of a place, but for many tourists, gastronomy is not the main driver to visit. Gastronomy tourism requires the packaging and promotion of local gastronomy experiences of course, but visitors have to understand what is being offered, and the price has to be attractive as well. Good local cuisine is the first and most important step, but a destination still has a lot to do to make its gastronomy competitive in the eyes of travelers.
Cypriot gastronomy tourism is still in its early stages of development but clearly has a promising future. How so? Consider the Cypriot breakfast. It is based on high quality and tasty local produce, as well as authentic traditional recipes. It is a gastronomic experience in itself and unlike breakfast in other countries, with the possible exception of neighboring Greece.
Also consider Cypriot wines, which are of excellent quality. Wine is often an essential part of gastronomy tourism and wine tourism has great potential to be developed on Cyprus. Beer lovers also have a lot to discover. The local beers I tasted were quite good. Considering other destinations, beer has been the cornerstone for some countries’ gastronomy tourism experiences, and indeed can be very successful. Developing both wine and beer tourism can help develop Cypriot gastronomy tourism.
Halloumi (pictured here) has a special place in Cypriot gastronomy. It’s a unique cheese loved by many and it can also drive food lovers to visit. The above are just a few of the local culinary elements that can lead to unique culinary points and to the creation of popular gastronomy tourism experiences.
Finally, in Cyprus the visitor will experience “mezes” which are a variety of different dishes, each consisting of local products with a unique tastes. Connoisseurs of Greek gastronomy will recognize “mezes” for sure. Cyprus has many opportunities to gain recognition for its gastronomy tourism, and those opportunities are just now starting to become known.
Cyprus is a beautiful place, with a long history and beautiful nature. Its friendly locals and fantastic food culture will welcome many visitors who who will recognize its special identity as a visitor destination.
For me, the key to success is the systematic development of Cypriot gastrotourism. Recent food tourism research shows that more than 90% of travelers around the world now pay great attention to food and beverage experiences. We realize that gastronomy tourism can be a key to driving new tourism and brand awareness. And Cyprus can do this very easily, because it is a tourist destination that has the potential to produce excellent gastronomy tourism products and experiences. So, when you decide what your next destination will be, think of Cyprus. Give the country the opportunity to shower you with flavors and aromas, in unique journeys, in an authentic and ancient culture, in beautiful places you will never forget!
Maria Athanasopoulou is the chairwoman of the World Food Travel Association (WFTA), an Ambassador of the WFTA in Greece and hold a Master Culinary Travel Professional degree. She is also the founder of the tourism marketing company Respond On Demand.