Moun­tain re­sorts and in­cen­tives

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Moun­tain re­sorts, ho­tels, leisure cen­tres, etc., are col­laps­ing eco­nom­i­cally, while the con­ver­sion of moun­tain ho­tels to apart­ments for sale, etc., is the worst that could hap­pen, even though due to the poor num­ber of tourists on a con­stant ba­sis (not only on week­ends) jus­ti­fies their clo­sure.

So, what can we do?

How can the moun­tain re­sorts be sup­ported when they are in des­per­ate need of a sewage sys­tem, which does not ex­ist, yet ev­ery­body pays for it in ad­di­tion to the heavy prop­erty taxes. The abo­li­tion of these rates, only in the case of ho­tels and agro­tourism units, is a must.

These ho­tels that also have a prob­lem find­ing proper staff should be sub­sidised with a cap of 1,000 eu­ros per room per year, if these units guar­an­tee that they will op­er­ate for at least six months dur­ing the win­ter pe­riod. This way, the ru­ral hote­liers can be en­cour­aged to keep on per­ma­nent staff and choose the best ones, be­cause sea­sonal work is not very at­trac­tive for any em­ployee, rang­ing from cooks to man­age­ment.

Beach prop­er­ties that have reg­u­lar and re­peat cus­tomers, and are of­ten over-booked in the peak sea­son, should be en­cour­aged to make in­vest­ments in the moun­tain ar­eas, even with small units of 10-20 rooms, that would not need to con­form with the strict CTO reg­u­la­tions. If, for ex­am­ple, the owner of the Le Meri­dien wants to in­vest about EUR 2 mln in a moun­tain prop­erty, ei­ther for new units or re­fur­bish­ment of older ones, the in­vestors should be of­fered an in­cen­tive in the form of trans­fer­ring the build­ing co­ef­fi­cient from the moun­tain re­sort to his sea­side prop­erty, at a rate of, say, 100 sq.m. per room in­vested. This way, the beach ho­tel will gain a fur­ther 2,000 sq.m. build­ing co­ef­fi­cient, which does not ex­ist at present, adding a fur­ther 50 rooms, in ex­change for the 20 rooms in the moun­tains that would have oth­er­wise been closed down or aban­doned. The dif­fer­ence is pure profit.

In­cen­tives should be of­fered to lo­cal and for­eign tour op­er­a­tors for stays of at least two nights, with a sub­sidy of about 20% on the ac­com­mo­da­tion and trans­port. The real cost would be min­i­mal and could be ad­justed ac­cord­ing to vol­ume.

It is clear that most of the own­ers of these moun­tain units are elderly and not nec­es­sar­ily ed­u­cated or trained in mod­ern man­age­ment tech­niques, and thus can­not pro­mote their units in or­der to com­pare them with the highly ef­fi­cient and richer sea­side re­sorts. In this di­rec­tion, the state should en­cour­age a new Pro­mo­tion Agency for ac­tiv­i­ties at home and abroad, with sep­a­rate par­tic­i­pa­tion at in­ter­na­tional tourism exhibitions that should be sub-con­tracted to pri­vate firms. This pro­mo­tion should en­com­pass all ac­tiv­i­ties to in­clude tourism, well­ness, spas, sports, hik­ing, cy­cling, etc. The cost may be in the range of EUR 200,000 a year but this will quickly be re­couped from the eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in the moun­tain ar­eas and from em­ploy­ment and in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Own­ers who rarely visit their fam­ily moun­tain homes should be en­cour­aged to in­duct their prop­er­ties into a directory for rent on a daily or short-term ba­sis, sim­i­lar to hos­tels or inns that op­er­ate in the Greek isles, con­di­tional to se­cur­ing lo­cal ap­proval for qual­ity and ser­vice.

It is ob­vi­ous that we do not need to re-in­vent the wheel when it comes to the moun­tain re­sorts, but their suc­cess is linked only to new ap­proaches, such as the fine ex­am­ple of Kalopanayi­o­tis, Omo­dos and Kakope­tria, to name just a few.

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