The scourge of un­li­censed hol­i­day homes


Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The re­cent un­for­tu­nate case of a young boy drown­ing in the pool of a hol­i­day com­plex raises the valid ques­tion, “does any­one reg­u­late the hol­i­day in­dus­try”? In this case, the blame has bounced from one public ser­vice to an­other, with each one say­ing that it had done what was ex­pected of it, but not a sin­gle body re­spon­si­ble for co­or­di­nat­ing them all.

Years ago, Cyprus-spe­cial­ist tour op­er­a­tors, mainly from the U.K., were obliged to send hol­i­day­mak­ers only to li­censed vil­las and apart­ments, mak­ing sure than any one fea­tured in their brochures com­plied with rules and reg­u­la­tions set down by the Cyprus Tourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion. Al­though some of th­ese re­quire­ments were fool­ish and con­sid­ered ar­chaic, at least it of­fered some sense of se­cu­rity or even re­spon­si­bil­ity on the part of the owner of the prop­erty and the travel com­pany.

Un­for­tu­nately, with the is­land’s de­vel­op­ers, large and small, get­ting greedy and re­sort­ing to any method avail­able to sell their prop­er­ties, we had a con­struc­tion boom in the past two decades that also cre­ated a new mon­ster – in­di­vid­ual owner/op­er­a­tors, very of­ten re­tired ex­pats or over­seas Cypri­ots, sell­ing un­li­censed hol­i­day pack­ages via the In­ter­net. This un­con­trolled phe­nom­e­non dec­i­mated the spe­cial­ist tour op­er­a­tor’s of­fer­ing, many of whom have re­sorted to sell­ing bet­ter pack­ages to the Greek is­lands, the western Mediter­ranean and other ex­otic des­ti­na­tions such as the Caribbean, south­ern Africa, Pacific isles, etc.

Ev­ery­one grum­bles and moans about the al­leged de­struc­tion caused by the all-in­clu­sive holidays, even though we be­lieve that this type of va­ca­tion resort is a nec­es­sary part of the is­land’s va­ri­ety of of­fer­ings.

But no-one says any­thing about the villa in Paphos or Pro­taras that does not meet any safety stan­dards, is looked af­ter by the biddy old re­tirees next door and does not pay a sin­gle cent in li­cense fees, in­come or any other form of tax. It seems that the In­land Rev­enue is more keen on keep­ing up its cru­sade on al­leged tax avoiders (you know, the SME that is on the verge of clos­ing), but does ab­so­lutely noth­ing to clamp down on th­ese tax evaders, de­tails of whom could eas­ily be ex­tracted from the data banks of the Land Reg­istry or from a sim­ple sweep of the world wide web.

No one is say­ing charg­ing ex­or­bi­tant fees, es­pe­cially if we are liv­ing in a free-mar­ket econ­omy. But if a hol­i­day home is to be ad­ver­tised, money is to change hands and a profit is to be made (and the im­age of Cyprus blem­ished if some­thing goes wrong), then a re­duced-rate VAT must be paid on ev­ery trans­ac­tion, an af­ford­able li­cense should be im­posed and some­body ought to take charge. It would im­prove the rev­enues of lo­cal towns and com­mu­ni­ties and also pro­vide the oc­ca­sional job or two to in­spect th­ese prop­er­ties.

Or else, it once again shows that tax of­fi­cials and mu­nic­i­pal work­ers are in the pock­ets of the mega de­vel­op­ers or their high-rank­ing civil ser­vant rel­a­tives who want to rent out their hol­i­day homes and keep all the earn­ings in bank ac­counts over­seas.

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