The rural cultural landscape of Larnaca, Cyprus

The region of Larnaca has a legacy of hundreds of years of contrasting civilizations, architecture and culture that have left their mark today. Larnaca has always been one of the most important and diverse regions of Cyprus. The City of Larnaca stretches out to rural areas with some of the larger suburbs, constituting small towns in their own right. These enrich in their part athe cultural offerings of the region with their own annual festivals, museums, monuments and tourist attractions. Further, the mountainous areas of Larnaca are dotted with charming villages with narrow streets, where traditions and folk handicrafts are still practiced. One of the most famous is the handmade lace embroidery of Lefkara (UNESCO intangible heritage) and its delicate filigree silver. The Larnaca Mountainous Area (Orini Larnaka) won the first prize in the European Destinations of Excellence EDEN VIII competition themed ‘Cultural Tourism’, organised by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation in 2017. The area is rich in UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia (UNESCO), and the Church of Panagia Aggeloktisti which is a part of the Tentative list of Cyprus in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List. A unique intangible heritage enriches the cultural capital of the area, including Kataklysmos: Festival of the Flood; Livadia village basketry: traditional  form of basket making and weaving still practised by only few skilled women today; Athienou village’s unique lace: home of some special lace techniques; Lefkara and its village lace linens: tradition of lace-making since 1489; Traditional Red Clay Pottery at Kornos village; Bread-making  tradition in Athienou: an old bread-making tradition famous for the widely known round “common Cypriot bread”.

Be.CULTOUR challenge:

The site of Larnaca suffers from a dependence on Sun & Sea tourism, which is becoming increasingly price dependent, as a result of fierce competition between both new and mature destinations. Pre-covid years were characterised by increased numbers of international tourists, but a decline of the average expenditure per person/trip. Rapid and intense development on coastal areas, overexploitation of attractions and saturation of tourist areas causes visual noise, air pollution as well as overconsumption of water, electricity and other provisions that put pressure on natural resources and the local communities. Strong tourism seasonality necessitates the expansion of the tourist season and a diversification of the touristic experience, by improving and developing appropriate cultural itineraries, and infrastructure.

Pandemic Impacts:

In 2019, Cyprus received 4 million tourists and had a total revenue of 2.7 billion Euro, forming a leading European holiday destination. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a major disruption in the tourism sector with a sharp decrease of arrivals by 83.9%. This unprecedented fall of tourism-generated revenue, which normally contributes to 20% of the national GDP, had a major impact on the national economy and has led to an increase in unemployment in services linked to the tourism sector. In 2020, the hospitality sector was shut down during extended lockdowns, private consumption and investment significantly dropped, while operational months saw a decline both in terms of occupancy rates and average daily rates.

Innovation Areas: Sensorial Heritage; Rural Co-Living.

Key Stakeholders: Deputy Ministry of Tourism in Cyprus, Department of Town Planning linked with C&CH Partnership, The Cyprus Hoteliers Association, the Association of Cyprus Tourist Enterprises, The Hotel Managers association, the Tourist Guides association, the Restaurant Owners, Cyprus Health Services Promotion Board, Special Interest Tourism association and Conference, Incentives, Meetings Association, the Women’s Association of Rural Larnaka, Larnaka Tourism Board, Municipality of Larnaka, Larnaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Cyprus Agrotourism Company, Union of Communities, Union of Municipalities.