How should we ex­tend the tourist sea­son?

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The ex­ten­sion of the tourist sea­son, which is ex­pected with a pro­por­tion­ate in­crease in the num­ber of tourists and state rev­enues, is a pre­cur­sor for the im­prove­ment in our econ­omy and, of course, by ex­ten­sion the real es­tate in­dus­try. I have of­ten re­ferred to the mis­for­tunes of other coun­tries that have “helped” us at times (Le­banonYu­goslavia-Rus­sia), and more re­cently the events in Egypt and Turkey.

Sud­denly, we have dis­cov­ered new mar­kets for Cyprus as a tourist des­ti­na­tion, and yet we are not ready to wel­come them due to mul­ti­ple de­fi­cien­cies, both in terms of in­fra­struc­ture, as well as men­tal­i­ties from our own stake­hold­ers, pri­vate or state.

The qual­i­ties of Cyprus, sun/sea, clean beaches, se­cu­rity, etc., are well known, es­pe­cially in re­cent years with the de­vel­op­ments and other events that oc­cur in our ri­val mar­kets, par­tic­u­larly with re­gard to safety.

• We then learned that the clo­sure of Cyprus Air­ways was not a dis­as­ter after all, but a bless­ing, not only for the un­for­tu­nate tax­pay­ers Cyprus - but now there is a long queue of as­pir­ing op­er­a­tors, al­beit with some­what higher costs. This is a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity for Cyprus as a des­ti­na­tion, and new mar­kets such as Ger­many, Bel­gium, etc., do not recog­nise us be­cause of the lim­its we had in the past due to the mo­nop­oly of the Fly­ing Mouf­flon.

• So, due to pre­vail­ing cir­cum­stances we at­tracted a spe­cific cat­e­gory of tourist who now has to face some of the fol­low­ing prob­lems:

- Crooked taxi driv­ers at the air­port who rip off vis­i­tors who paid 100 eu­ros to come to Cyprus by over­charg­ing them 100 eu­ros for to be taken to their ho­tel in Paphos.

- Over­charg­ing, in gen­eral, is the most com­mon of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties, with the re­cent case in Paphos with a restau­rant owner charg­ing 5 eu­ros for a lemon, or the re­cent beat­ing of a tourist in Ayia Napa who had the courage to com­plain that he was over­charged by the taxi driver. Un­for­tu­nately, both cases have been widely re­ported on­line tar­nish­ing our im­age fur­ther. - Lim­it­ing the con­nec­tion be­tween Ayia Napa and Pro­taras the pub­lic trans­port sys­tem, be­cause the taxi driv­ers

by would lose their op­por­tu­nity to over­charge, after which the gov­ern­ment caved in and com­pro­mised by lim­it­ing the times of the bus services, while the con­tin­u­ous in­ter­con­nec­tion of Ayia Napa-Par­al­imni-Pro­taras would ben­e­fit ev­ery­one, es­pe­cially at night.

- Closed re­sorts and ho­tels. Per­haps here there should be a way to of­fer some in­cen­tive, eg. a re­duc­tion in the real es­tate or cor­po­rate tax dur­ing the cal­cu­la­tion if these es­tab­lish­ments re­main open dur­ing the win­ter months.

- Fool­ish trade union­ists who view the whole in­dus­try in a short­sighted man­ner, who in­sist on claim­ing the sum­mer salaries in the win­ter months as well, as a re­sult of which staff are sus­pended dur­ing the win­ter months when they deal with their pri­vate jobs dur­ing this pe­riod and claim un­em­ploy­ment as well. So, then, why do they com­plain about the em­ploy­ment of for­eign­ers?

- How is it pos­si­ble that the beaches of Cyprus are un­der the con­trol of the coastal mafia? A case in ques­tion is the prob­lem we now have to deal with as the EU wants the beach busi­ness li­cens­ing dereg­u­lated, some­thing that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and MPs do not want, surely be­cause of per­sonal in­ter­est.

- Pro­mot­ing dif­fer­ent ar­eas to over­seas mar­kets by fo­cus­ing on their lo­cal events. With the ex­cep­tion of Ayia Napa, all other ef­forts are lim­ited or non-ex­is­tent, that need con­stant ad­ver­tise­ments for lo­cal tourism, in­stead of cam­paigns that pro­mote any­thing from a Sir­taki fes­ti­val up to the tra­di­tional dish of kolokasi.

- Ho­tels and cater­ing. Even though hote­liers do not en­joy the pub­lic’s full sym­pa­thy, their ac­tions do not sup­port them. Over­charg­ing for drinks (3-4 times the cost - for ex­am­ple, a bot­tle of wine that re­tails for 5 eu­ros is charged in the menu for 20) while the ser­vice is chaotic. This is why some es­tab­lish­ments in these ar­eas have an an­tic­i­pated reser­va­tion time and oth­ers are just empty.

- Sports tourism for all? Ayia Napa im­me­di­ately saw a re­turn after it up­graded its foot­ball fields with in­creased de­mand now from the north­ern Euro­pean coun­tries for train­ing dur­ing their win­ter months and even some in­ter­est from dis­tant China, while there is no as­sis­tance to neigh­bour­ing Par­al­imni and other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that sought as­sis­tance from the state.

- De­spite all that I have men­tioned, some tourists dared (un­wisely) to visit Cyprus, and came face to face with the lo­cal men­tal­ity of “why bother?” We even have the case of high-rank­ing pub­lic of­fi­cials who, in­stead of as­sist­ing the state and the strug­gling lo­cal econ­omy, re­sorted to fil­ing com­plaints, such as the case of the Limni golf re­sort, the con­fer­ence cen­tre in Pen­takomo with an­gel statue that of­fi­cials did not ap­prove of, the dol­phi­nar­ium, croc­o­diles parks, etc. At least, the camel park suc­ceeded as did the don­key sanc­tu­ary in Kofi­nou. All these would pro­vide al­ter­na­tive ac­tiv­i­ties for win­ter tourism.

I do not know what it has cost us fore the for­eign con­sul­tants to ad­vise the state on the use of gov­ern­ment land. We have been given the usual runaround, with the con­sul­tants ad­vis­ing the state to cre­ate more plots and to build of­fices, etc., at a time when the sup­ply is at a peak. So, it has been sug­gested to build more ho­tels in the cen­tre of Ni­cosia, when the cap­i­tal’s ex­ist­ing hote­liers are al­ready strug­gling. Or to use the site of the old gen­eral hos­pi­tal for the cre­ation of more of­fice blocks, which ef­fec­tively destroys the plans for a new mu­seum that could have helped at­tract more vis­i­tors for win­ter tourism. De­tailed pro­posal have been sub­mit­ted to the state, free of charge, sug­gest­ing that such a mu­seum also hosts vis­it­ing ex­hibits, such as tem­po­rar­ily hous­ing col­lec­tions from war-torn coun­tries or other trou­bled states, as is the case of Iraq, Le­banon, Syria, etc.).

So, we want the Tourism Min­is­ter to take ac­tion, for ex­am­ple in the case of unit­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of Li­mas­sol for the com­mon use of dams, fish­ing, ex­cur­sions, sports, and even for the use of cer­tain ar­eas of the for­mer Bri­tish SBA bases that have since been handed to the Repub­lic.

Un­for­tu­nately, due to a mis­un­der­stand­ing and old men­tal­i­ties, a lot of these ar­eas will re­main static, and is the case of the foot­ball pitches in the Pro­taras area, that in­stead of at­tract­ing in­ter­na­tional teams for win­ter train­ing of foot­ball and other sports, have at­tracted hu­man-height weeds.

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