LEGISLATORS yesterday expressed concerns over what they perceived as unilateral and obscure decisions by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), which they said were taken without any indication on whether they were valid.
CTO representatives yesterday told the House Commerce Committee they had decided to shut down their one office in Austria, in the capital, Vienna.
It costs the CTO some €380,000 a year to run the Vienna office, which would be better used to promote Cyprus in under-represented countries, said deputy with main opposition AKEL Costas Costa.
He defended the CTO’s efforts to rationalise expenses over the past three years, and said that the body’s decision to shut down nine offices abroad this year would lead to considerable savings. The CTO currently lists 18 offices abroad, including the Austria one, and others including in Greece, the United Kingdom, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
But deputy with ruling party DISY, Nicos Nouris, who instigated the discussion, accused the CTO of spending thousands of euros on a number of studies to better make use of its budget, which it later ignored.
Nouris said the CTO spent €90,000 in three different studies on its expenses, none of which recommended shutting down the Vienna office. In fact, one of the studies recommended turning the Vienna office into a regional centre, he said.
Projections by a carrier placed the number of potential visitors to Cyprus from Austria at some 28,000 people a year, which could come to a contribution to the economy of some €14 million per annum, Nouris said. “And we rush into shutting down the Vienna office,” he added.
Nouris said he was troubled because stakeholders seemed to disagree with the CTO decision, he said claiming that the Cyprus ambassador to Austria, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the hoteliers’ association all disagreed.
MP with coalition partner DIKO Angelos Votsis called on the CTO to reconsider.
“We have to note the CTO is taking steps in the right direction in terms of reorganising its offices abroad, but some details seem to raise certain problems so its board should study the matter again,” he said.
Others wanted to know where CTO’s studies ended up and why they were not made public.
CTO chairman Alecos Orountiotis said the organisation tried to be realistic. Restructuring offices abroad could enable the body to promote the island better, he said. More visitors could come from Austria but this could be done by advertising and promotion, he added. He said it was high time to bring about serious changes to bring the CTO up to date.