Is Larnaca headed to self-destruction?
And yet any attempt to upgrade the town is subject to strong opposition from the people of Larnaca themselves or at least a part of the local population that seems to impose its will on other citizens. If you remember the initial plans for the Phinkoudes project by Angelos Demetriou, there was strong opposition in the beginning but in the end it has become a jewel. Looking further along the Mackenzie strip with the various restaurants, again there was reaction reached and this area too has become a jewel for the town with post popular beach in the country and this is due to the efforts of the Municipality.
And if we look at the Piale Pashia / Tassos Mitsopoulos promenade, again there were all kinds of reaction, which almost caused the project to be abandoned.
The City of Kition has managed to attract some new hotels along the Phinikoudes and Mackenzie seafront, as well as a number of boutique hotels, with the latest addition expected to be that of the luxury hotel owned and built by Russian interests, a Chineseowned hotel near the Port, etc., something which is not seen in any other town. On the other hand, the municipality is desperately trying to attract interest to the seafront with the various beach sports facilities and other events to enhance the town’s marketability. But Larnaca also has the highest youth unemployment rate, and the town’s entrepreneurs have a weird mentality to invest in other areas. The municipality is doing its best to attract investors but some residents are an example to avoid when it comes to who decides what’s best for the twon.
So, let’s look at the case of the port of Larnaca. After years of discussion whether the port will be commercial or a tourist marina, the subject is not moving along both due to the location and the high cost of such investments in times of economic distress. Larnaca port was tested to attract cruise ships, including efforts by the Louis Group, but this did not succeed and the work ended up in Limassol.
Now, with the political situation in the surrounding area, particularly that of Egypt, Israel, Syria, etc., there is no interest for cruises in the eastern Mediterranean. Why, then, is there the obsession by a few to transform Larnaca into a cruise centre?
For reasons of their own, the multinational gas companies concluded they wanted to set up their base in the port of Larnaca, but now, the municipal councillors do not want this project and are insisting on establishing a cruise for which there is no demand.
So, instead of this port becoming an energy centre attracting oil and gas giants, they have managed to drive away business and of course Limassol municipality was quick enough to swoop in on the deal. And good for them.
So what if 200 people lose their jobs in Larnaca. We also had the case of the crocodile farm and park near Larnaca, where at first the locals sold their land at high prices to investors for this purpose and now they have changed their minds and say they do not want such a project. And then there was the case of the energy companies wanting to set up support service in Aradippou where investors also wanted to establish a gold refining factory. I would not be surprised if Larnaca is blackballed and classified as an unfriendly investment location for foreign investors, with the relevant interest and excitement once again being picked up by Limassol.
In the end, there will no longer be any adventurous investors who will want to risk their money and efforts in Larnaca. Why, then, does Limassol have a different approach as opposed to the blinkered councillors of Larnaca, who ignore the wider interest of the town?
Perhaps Averof Neophytou was right in saying “if I was in the place of the international companies I would leave Cyprus altogether”. On the other hand there are also the justified comments by all the town’s mayors that the country’s economic benefits must also be taken into consideration, as well as the town’s, while Larnaca remains the poor relative of other towns and with diminishing sources of revenue and investments.
By extension, the same seems to apply in the local real estate market. When initially there was interest by these foreign companies for the port of Larnaca (along with 40-50 supporting service companies), there first appeared such a demand for residential properties that rents spiraled to around EUR 2,000 / month, both within and outside town, in addition to interest in foreign-language schools for the foreign employees, an increase in long-term occupancy of local hotels with fortnightly rotation crews from the energy companies, renting offices that had been empty, increasing commercial activity, etc. which have all helped to boost the local economy.
So, do the Larnacans at all love thir own town? I very much doubt it when certain groups are fighting against anything new.
As regards the municipal councilors, perhaps it would be better if they went back home because they are clearly not interested in wider interests of the town but only their own personal interests.
Larnaca has all the makings to become a new St Tropez of the Eastern Mediterranean. It is the only town located “on the sea” in contrast to Limassol and Paphos where roads lead the beach. It is the only town with an extensive sandy beach stretching from Dhekelia up to Mazotos, it is the only town where the original traditional core is located on the beachfront and the only one that has a port within town limits.