By Jean Christou
DRUNKENNESS and the easy access to copious amounts of alcohol, especially on all-inclusive holidays, are the biggest issues when it comes to British tourists visiting the island each year, it emerged on Monday.
The conclusion was reached during a round-table discussion in Nicosia on ‘Cyprus as a safe destination’ involving the British High Commission, officials, police and tourism industry stakeholders ahead of the start of the summer season next month.
Lynda Burns from the British High Commission said Cyprus was an important tourist destination for the UK with around one million arrivals a year.
“We want to work together even harder and build stronger links to make sure that Cyprus is always safe and secure for tourists,” she said.
In a Skype transmission during the event, the British Consular Regional Director for South Europe Will Middleton said that 69 per cent of incidents involving British tourists in Cyprus were either related to deaths, detention, or hospitalisation. Around 53 per cent of all incidents happened in Paphos and Ayia Napa, the two most popular spots for Brits. Each year, the consular section in Nicosia deals with a number of cases where young people drink heavily, get involved in fights, or have accidents on quad bikes.
Participants at the round-table discussion agreed that drunkenness remained the major issue, coupled with a need for improved policing. They also agreed on the need for cooperation with the countries of the island’s main markets to promote responsible behaviour by holidaymakers. Tour operators also came in for some flak for giving younger tourists the idea that they can throw caution to the wind when they are on holiday.
Ayia Napa mayor Yiannis Karousos told attendees that while the issue of policing had been more or less resolved with the transfer of additional officers to the resort, he said tourists often received the message from their countries of origin and from tour operators “that they can come to Ayia Napa and do whatever they want”.
Last year the High Commission launched a campaign whose objective was to encourage young Britons holidaying on the island to act responsibly.
Dubbed ‘Holiday Hangover’, the campaign targeted youths holidaying in Ayia Napa, encouraging them to have a good time but also to act responsibly. Consular staff in Nicosia met with tour operators prior to the start of the season to explain the campaign, part of which involved distributing leaflets and wrist bands with cautions and with the emergency number 112.
As far as the easy access to alcohol irrespective of age was concerned, some participants expressed concern over the all-inclusive packages offered by some hotels, and also suggested the owners of bars and pubs needed more training. To compound the problem of ‘all-inclusive’ drinks at hotels, bar owners often resorted to knockdown drink prices to lure people back out of the hotels.
The head of the anti-drugs council Tonia Payiata said research consistently showed how easy it was in Cyprus to get access to alcohol at any age. A new study to be released soon, she said would show that Cyprus is number one in this respect.
Cyprus Tourism Organisation representative Xenia Loizidou said despite some issues, Cyprus was one of the safest tourist destinations, which was one of its competitive selling points.
She said the CTO would take the initiative to create a working group to coordinate all of the stakeholders’ ideas and to outline specific actions that could be carried out in 2015, which could be integrated into a broader strategic plan on “tourism and security”.
By Jean Christou