By Bejay Browne
THE OWNERS of a small, award-winning, picturesque hotel in the Paphos village of Lysos have discovered the hard way how easy it is to be a victim of your own success.
Paradisos Hills hotel in Lysos opened nine years ago and built a reputation for offering quality, excellent service and attention to detail, and yet the last 18 months have left them struggling to survive amid the economic crisis and spiraling running costs.
Sisters Soulla Charalambous and Niki Chrystodoulou take most of the responsibility for the day-to-day running of the hotel and the family has invested hundreds of thousands of euros in a place which is praised for its traditional Cypriot hospitality.
Encouraged by their success, the family decided several years ago to extend the hotel and was hoping to complete a project which included an additional 12 bedrooms – they currently have 15 – a conference room and a spa.
The entire project comes with a hefty 1.6 million euro price tag and work undertaken so far has already come in at half of that.
“We have had to halt work due to finances and we don’t know when we will be able to complete it,” she said.
The boutique hotel has just re-opened after closing for a few months in the winter, the second year they have had to do this, in order to slash outgoing costs.
“We have to survive and we are determined to do so. We have to turn over thousands every month to cover our costs. Our electricity bill alone has gone up to 6,000 euros every two months,” Soulla said.
“There are seven of us working here altogether and this is the minimum we can operate with. We have to remain competitive, so we have dropped our prices, as this is much better than being empty.”
Paradisos is set in a stunning, tranquil location a fifteen minute or so drive from Polis and on the edge of the forest. The scenery is a pull for lovers of the countryside as there is an abundance of nature trails and wild birds, as well as horse-riding which is close by.
Despite all these attractions and the family’s warm welcome, as with many other such businesses, the family has seen a massive drop in bookings.
“Our customers are mostly Cypriot and British, although we do get visitors from other countries as well,” Soulla said. “Many Cypriots used to come for overnight stays or long weekends, but we have seen the biggest decrease in this market.”
The part of the 1.6 million euro project the family has so far managed to complete includes a large function room, outdoor roof terrace and an infinity pool, of which the latter two boast some of the best views in Cyprus.
“Luckily, the level which we use is now finished and tidy, and the other works, which have been put on hold, aren’t obvious as they are underneath this. Most people aren’t even aware of it,” Soulla said.
The family’s problems weren’t restricted only to the crisis. They were also adversely affected by a strike at the island’s only cement factory, which occurred right in the middle of the ongoing building work.
“This really slowed us down,” said Soulla. “We have come through some real difficulties and a lot of stress.”
As well as slashing prices, the businesswomen say they are trying to offer more for customers. They have a number of musical evenings planned which are due to get underway in April. In addition, a yoga retreat will be held by industry professionals and seminars can be held in the newly completed function room.
Paradisos can also organise and host weddings, most of which have been for British couples, as the function room has a capacity to hold only 220 guests.
“This is quite small for Cypriot weddings, as they usually have thousands of guests. But we have held a Cypriot wedding for 900 guests outside in the parking area. When it’s decorated, it looks lovely,” said Soulla.
Her sister, Niki, who is the hotel’s chef, is offering cookery lessons where participants will learn to create traditional Cyprus dishes.
Billing itself as a ‘home away from home’, the hotel has consistently won praise from visitors who comment on many of the interactive holiday sites. It has been awarded, peoples’ choice and best service awards as well as certificates of excellence from Trip Advisor.
Although the sisters are the mainstay of the business, other family members often help out at the hotel during busy times such as Sunday lunch, parties and other functions.
The sisters believe that more should be done by the CTO to promote Cyprus and in particular Polis and the surrounding areas, which are seeing a general decrease in visitor numbers each year.
“This is such a beautiful area and like other areas of Cyprus, sadly, Polis is really suffering,” Soulla said: