ECONOMY

Cypriot tourism plans

Two casinos, three modern marinas, 10 golf courses and the encouragement of investors through incentives for the development of agritourism are Cyprus’s moves for the attraction of more quality tourism. At the same time, a program called «Hotel Amnesty» aims to put an end to the legal issues pending at several hotel units on the island. Minister for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Fotis Fotiou explains that this program has a double objective – to sort out the situation with hoteliers that have broken the law and to impose the strict application of the legislation on new units. Another program is under way, providing incentives for the withdrawal from the market of old hotel units, which have a new life as offices or flats. Of a total of 120,000 beds, some 20,000 will be withdrawn from the Cyprus hotel market through this program. Until that process is finished, the government is following a policy of containing the market as far as new hotel investments are concerned. Permits for the construction of new units are issued with very strict criteria, without subsidy, only in specific areas and only if they are luxury hotels. More emphasis is being given to developing agritourism accommodation via financial incentives, as, along with golf courses and casinos, this is seen as a key attraction for tourists outside the peak season. Already 70 agritourism lodgings have been built in the last few years, while in the 2007-2013 period some 100 million euros will be allocated for such developments. Nicosia has formed a special agency within the Cypriot Tourism Organization (CTO) which does all the paperwork for investors who want to place their capital in Cypriot tourism. This way, says Phivi Katsouri, the general director of CTO, all permits required are issued within three months unless there is a problem. In Greece until recently it took up to 10 years for tourism investments to secure the essential licenses. With 2.4 million arrivals per year, Cyprus will spend for its tourism promotion 35-40 million euros, almost the same amount of money as Greece with 15 million tourists annually. Arrivals in Cyprus dropped by 2.8 percent last year due to the war in Lebanon, but revenues increased by 2.4 percent, reaching 1 billion Cyprus pounds (-1.75 billion). From Greece, 130,000 tourists visited Cyprus last year. Ten new golf courses Greece will lag behind all rival Mediterranean destinations in golf development after the completion of Cyprus’s five-year program for new golf courses. Katsouri notes that the island already has three modern courses and is preparing another 10. Although Cyprus has a water problem, the development of courses has not stopped. The government has set strict terms, forcing investors to secure water from desalination or the recycling of city sewage. Once the courses are complete, Cyprus will aim to attract 6 million European golfers seeking courses and mild temperatures during the winter. Tourism accommodation is also to be built, with each house costing today up to – 875,000. Within 2007, the process will be completed for the proclamation of tenders allowing for the first two casinos in Cyprus, probably in the triangle of Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaca. The plan is for one big casino with other supplementary investments, such as a conference center, and one smaller casino. Major players in the Greek market (Club Hotel Casino Loutraki and Hyatt) have already expressed their interest. The catalyst for casinos in Cyprus has been the operation of 23 casinos in the Turkish-occupied north of the island, where Greek Cypriots spend an estimated -65-70 million every year, not to mention properties lost due to debts at Turkish Cypriot casinos. The Limassol marina will soon be modernized and expanded to add another 1,000 mooring slots. Procedures are also ongoing for modern marinas in Larnaca and Paphos. Finally, the operation of an autonomous conference center for 2,000 people has been announced along with the creation of exhibition spaces in Limassol.