How should we extend the tourist season?
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.