Project Discovery Diary: Cyprus

“Head Office staffers Hayley Tillson and Katy Robinson spent 2 weeks working in Cyprus as part of Thomson’s internal volunteering programme”

Here’s a snippet from their travel journal……

  • Project Discovery Diary: Cyprus

    Volunteer Names: Hayley Tillson and Katy Robinson
    Job Titles:
    Online Marketing Executive and Distribution Training Consultant
    Project Discovery Location: Cyprus
    Assignment: Spend 2 weeks meeting customers and local producers along Village Route 6 in order to find out how to improve the driving route booklets available to holidaymakers.

    Dear Diary…

    Day 1 – Planning the trip

    After a long day of travelling we arrived at the Avanti Hotel in Paphos. First impressions were great – the hotel is just a minute’s walk from the beach and a beautiful coastal walk away from the town centre and harbour.

    {Avanti Hotel}

    Feeling lucky to have been given the opportunity to step aside from our day jobs and work on a project we were passionate about, we took some time to plan the next 14 days. We had two objectives in Paphos. The first was to meet local producers along Village Route 6 – a self-drive route developed by the Travel Foundation to encourage tourists to go off the beaten track and – with the help of a tour booklet – explore the area. The second was to survey some of our customers to find out more about them, what they think of the printed self-drive routes, and whether they would like digital versions. It was going to be a busy couple of weeks…

    Day 2 – Meeting our customers

    For our first full day in Paphos we set ourselves a target of completing our first batch of surveys. It was a daunting prospect that definitely put us out of our comfort zone. Luckily, though, the people we spoke to were really friendly and interested in the work we were doing.

    {Our survey helper}

    In the afternoon we met with a lady – Angela – who had been instrumental in producing the Village Routes. It was great for us to speak to someone so passionate about this project so early on in our trip. She gave us some great tips about people to speak to once we had our car, and about driving the roads into the villages. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and we left feeling inspired to complete more surveys in nearby hotels (seeking refuge from the heat in each air-conditioned lobby along the way!)

    Day 4 – Driving Village Route 6

    We were both really excited to start exploring the villages along Village Route 6. Granted, we were nervous about driving abroad, although the fact we’d be driving on the same side of the road as back home made it slightly less daunting. Our little blue Kia Picanto was delivered and we were soon on our way. The views along the route – through Akamas National Park – were absolutely breathtaking.

    {Hayley at the Herb Garden}

    Our first stop was Heaven on Earth herb garden in Pano Akourdaelia. We hadn’t quite adjusted to the Cypriot heat at this point, so the ice-cold homemade hibiscus pink lemonade (plus a cheeky slice of Heaven on Earth’s famous gluten free chilli and chocolate cake) was a god-send! After that we drove through the villages of Kathikas, Dionysos, Polis and Steni while interviewing producers at a winery, a taverna and a museum of village life.

    Day 10 – Our last day on the road

    By now we’d spent the past 6 days on the road, and this was to be our last day of exploring and speaking to local producers. We’d seen such a contrast as we drove from the busy resort area – past UK favourites like Debenhams, Next, Topshop and Pizza Hut – and out in to the peace and tranquillity of the rural areas.

    {Hayley and Katy}

    The last place on our list was The Paradisos Hills Hotel in the village of Lysos, on the recommendation of Angela. It was well worth the wait. The views from this family-run hotel left us speechless, and it really felt a world away from the resort of Paphos. The hospitality we were shown by sisters Soula and Nikki was representative of the way we were treated throughout our trip.

    It’s amazing to think that many holidaymakers will visit this area without venturing out of their resort. Completing this project, which required us to get out and about and explore the area, has made us look at holidays in a totally different way. We spoke to people whose livelihoods depend on tourists exploring further afield while they’re on holiday. And we saw for ourselves just how easy and enjoyable it is to do so.

    What Is Project Discovery?

    Project Discovery is TUI UK & Ireland’s internal volunteering programme. It gives Thomson’s UK-based staff a chance to give their time to – and learn about – a sustainability project in one of the destinations we travel to. It’s run in partnership with the Travel Foundation – an independent sustainable tourism charity that TUI UK & Ireland supports through the World Care Fund.

    Find out more about the Travel Foundation here.

Author: Katie Gregory