for Limassol Tourism Board
This in-depth interview with a global headquartering expert reveals why Cyprus - and Limassol in particular - provides multinationals with the ideal work/life balance.
So often, Cyprus is epitomised by sun, sea and sand. But this is a country that’s so much more than golden beaches and 340 days of sunshine each year…
While Cyprus has always been rich in terms of its natural resources, (even the name of the island derives from the ancient word for copper!), it’s the country’s ideal location, hospitable people and singular work/life balance which are now making this one of the most desirable business destinations not just in the region, but the world!
“There are just so many benefits to living and working in Cyprus. It’s safe, there’s a high quality of life, and it’s perfectly located for business people from diverse nations to come together and cooperate,” reveals Kristina Ernst. The co-founder and director of CountryProfiler, an international company which publishes the annual Cyprus Country Report and CyprusProfile.com, and portal for the country. Originally from Canada, she lived in more than 10 different countries (including Japan, South Africa and Switzerland) before moving to Cyprus in 2004, where she now works closely with the island’s ministries, government agencies, associations and leading companies to provide essential insights for companies interested in doing business or investing in Cyprus.
“Living in Cyprus, you benefit from a singular work/life balance,” she explains. “The island delivers an entirely unique combination of factors, blending an excellent climate with the seaside lifestyle that’s so attractive to those of us from colder countries! Where else could in the world could you drive five minutes to work, break for lunch by the sea, and still have hours of leisure time?”
KEY TO SUCCESS
Classified by the World Bank as a high-income country, and consistently ranking amongst the top five eurozone performers, Cyprus may have had its fair share of turmoil over the years but has always emerged ever stronger as a result.
Today, company structuring, tax planning, fund management and administration, foreign exchange trading, and trusts are all strongly established segments of the island’s business sector, due to Cyprus’ attractive fiscal regime, network of double tax treaties with over 60 countries around the world, and a legal system based on English Common Law. At the same time, the Cyprus Investment Programme – in which non-Cypriot citizens may apply for the acquisition of Cypriot citizenship – is attracting unprecedented direct foreign investment, while both the maritime sector (a mainstay of the local economy, with one of the top merchant fleets in the world, and a gross tonnage in excess of 22 million) and the real estate industry (Cyprus boasts one of the highest rates in Europe of second home and holiday home owners) are booming…
CITIZEN OF THE WORLD
“When I first came to the island, the main focus was on Cyprus as a business and financial centre,” explains Kristina. “This focus has remained but, over the years, we’ve seen more diversification. There’s been growth in many other sectors too, such as higher education” – in the last 15 years, the number of foreign students has increased from about 400 to 21 000 – “while the tourist industry has expanded to include off-peak, wellness, sports, religious and wedding tourism” – which last sees over 8000 destination weddings per year! – “and has brought in record revenue and numbers of visitors over the last few years.”
Many of these visitors hail from the UK, long a key trading partner, while Chinese investment in the real estate market is growing annually. Then there’s Russia, which has enjoyed a strong relationship with the island over the last 50 years. The island’s second largest tourist market, Russia also enjoys a shared cultural heritage: Limassol is home to more than 10 000 permanent residents from the country and boasts a thriving community complete with its own Russian newspapers, radio stations, and schools.
RAISING THE BAR
Limassol and Paphos are consistently the preferred districts for these foreign buyers, accounting for around 70 per cent of foreign transactions, Kristina suggests. But, as a thriving business centre and international shipping hub, it’s Limassol, she acknowledges, which is experiencing the most dramatic expansion…
“The region in which we’re seeing the biggest growth is definitely Limassol. Both a business and tourist centre, it’s a city on the rise. There has been an increase in foreign investment, particularly in the tourism sector, and an influx of companies from across the world setting up, which has led to more demand for high-end property, office space, and auxiliary business services and has also benefited the hospitality sector. Limassol is definitely the most cosmopolitan city in Cyprus. In fact, if you’re sitting at Limassol Marina you’ll probably hear more accents than you would in the centre of London.”
Limassol’s multi-billion integrated luxury casino resort (Europe’s largest casino complex) is set to open in 2021, and “will boost year-round tourism by an estimated 300,000 visitors per year,” Kristina divulges. “It’s also set to boost conference tourism by providing a venue for larger gatherings in Limassol: although the city already has a good supply of hotels, this much larger venue is ideal.”
Meanwhile, the Limassol Marina, which offers berthing for 650 yachts and superyachts and a host of luxury property developments, has breathed new life into the local economy. Add to this a number of luxury golf course projects, and continuing improvements to the island’s already successful health and wellness industry, and you have a nation experiencing unprecedented growth.
While Kristina pinpoints Energy (recently discovered gas reserves have led to cooperation with industry giants such as Total, ExxonMobil, ENI, and Royal Dutch Shell) and Investment Funds (Cyprus’ Assets under Management have tripled since 2012 and passed the €6 billion mark at the end of 2018) as two key growth sectors, she also highlights the island’s potential as a headquartering destination.
“Cyprus is already a hub for international business and shipping, and the same could develop for companies servicing the oil and gas sector operating in the Eastern Mediterranean region. And with recently introduced incentives for expatriates and high-net-worth individuals, there has been even more interest from international companies across all sectors to base themselves on the island.”
With one of the fastest growing economies in the EU, a healthy GDP growth of approximately four per cent and interest from foreign investors increasing year-on-year, “the island continues to attract both international business and affluent individuals seeking an ideal Mediterranean lifestyle. This really is,” she smiles, “an island which makes doing business pleasurable as well as profitable.”