Paralimni marina and other projects
It was upsetting to read the announcements of Paralimni Municipality, as well as that of Ayia Napa, suggesting bureaucratic delays to take a final decision on vital projects planned or underway in these areas.
It is assumed that most boat owners who would be looking to berth their yachts or other vessels in marinas on the east coast are from Nicosian, consist primarily of speedboats and a very small proportion of small sailboats, albeit small in number, due to the lack of proper shelter.
In Paralimni, there is of course a fishing shelter, which is exploited by a number of local fishermen who reportedly sublet their berths to boat-owners from Nicosia. The absence of a proper marina in either resort town has led to ingenuity of some “boat keepers” who have transformed farmland to landbased parking space for boats throughout most of the season. The owner calls the boat keeper, who then lowers the boat into the water and the owner must swim to get to the boat and the same to return ashore. The cost depends on how many times this system is used and usually amounts to 1,000-1,500 euros per year, equal to the cost of rental of a berth in any marina.
It is also assumed that the Famagusta area of eastern Cyprus, faces the most injustice, both because of the limited investments in infrastructure, support services and tourism, as well as because of seasonality. Many hopes were raised when there was talk of a golf course in the area, where some investors started to show interest but eventually backed out because of changing terms and conditions. I do not expect this golf course ever to become a reality, unless the government includes this project on its premium list of strategic investments, by fast-tracking all the necessary operating and building permits and allowing for a speedy attraction of foreign investors.
Now we expect to see progress on the construction of the Ayia Napa marina, thanks to the Egyptian investor who has been found and is willing to pump in some 300 mln euros. If all goes well, the project is expected to be completed (albeit still pending various issues and permits) within the next two and a half years.
Both the construction of this marina, and the golf-marina project in Paralimni will have a positive impact on extending the tourist season in the area, which already accounts for 30% of all foreign arrivals a year, despite the fact that the area is fully operational for only six months. Naturally, with the reserved, but positive momentum in the Cyprus talks, we must not forget that we may see the return of Famagusta, which too will give a huge boost to tourism and help extend the season, while the construction frenzy to rebuilt the abandoned city, could provide hundreds, if not thousands of new jobs, reviving the economic activity of the whole area.
However, the municipality of both Ayia Napa and Paralimni, as well as other municipalities in the area should organise themselves better in order to benefit from all these development. The most important issues are the misspellings in English of many signs and communication in Ayia Napa, the gross tolerance by Paralimni’s mayor of the ugly containers along the beach of Protaras that have been converted into holiday homes, the abandonment of the volleyball pitch and the subsequent management to other on behalf of the municipality (a complaint I raised two years ago but has only now been discovered by the Auditor General), the creation of futsal pitches between Ayia Napa and Paralimni to encourage the youth, the elimination of “poachers” who promote restaurants and souvenir shops, overcharging at clubs mainly of alcoholic drinks, the absence of proper public transportation under pressure from the gangs of taxi drivers who charge 8 euros for a 4 km trip who might even beat you up, as was the case recently with Australian tourists.
Therefore, the construction of the Paralimni and Ayia Napa marinas alone will not solve the problems. We need determined people to be in charge, a culture change and a love for their area by the ‘natives’ themselves who often abuse the system as was the case lat year of some locally hired public workers skimming the revenues from the hire of sunbeds and umbrellas. No wonder the municipality has no cash.
However, as we all live in small communities where one is close friends or even related to the other, we should, perhaps, speed up the study into the consolidation of the municipalities of Ayia Napa, Paralimni, Dheryneia and Sotira, for the benefit of all. The fact that a number of town officials and elected deputies can block the state from implementing EU directives on the liberal use of water sports, as well as comments by respected MP Stella Kyriakides that operators “should have experience in the area of at least 3-5 years” is the worst that could be done. Such mentalities suggest that those few who have been exploiting watersports licenses will remain there for life, barring the arrival of any new entrants.
In an effort to boost competitiveness and reduce profiteering, the greatest part of responsibility lies with the local municipalities that should create an ‘entertainment guide’ in print or on their websites with full transparency, obliging all service providers to publish their rates for all to see for restaurants, bars, watersports, rentals, etc. This could also be a platform where complaints about overcharging can be properly posted (supported with the relevant proof). This could be too innovative and perhaps unique for Cypriot standards. For example, a tavern in Protaras charged us 25 euros for a bottle of wine, while the same wine was served in a Sotira tavern for 18. Unfortunately, as things are nowadays, with the overcharging of alcoholic drinks, the per-person cost for a drink is almost the same as the cost for food. A little crazy for a country that produces its own wine, don’t you think?
Such examples and suggestions ought to make us all think about year-round tourism, both for the Nicosians who need a short break every now and then, and certainly for all foreigners. But in order to succeed, we should all have an open mind and start thinking clearly for a charge.