By Bejay Browne
A RECENTLY formed association is planning to help improve and revive Paphos old town, with the aim of attracting people back to the area by offering a more traditional and authentic experience of Cyprus.
Just over a month ago a group of nine like-minded people who are passionate about the area, also known as Ktima, formed a new association – ‘Friends of Pafos Old Town’.
The administrative committee members either own businesses in the area or have a general interest in upgrading and enhancing it, says member Nassos Hadjigeorgiou, who also heads the Paphos regional board of tourism.
“The committee is planning a number of initiatives in order to make Ktima more appealing to everyone,” he said.
Shop keepers say they are struggling, with many on the brink of closure and have long been campaigning for help. Hadjigeorgiou says nothing has been done to sustain businesses in the area, and there was no ‘planning’ as such in the old town.
Ktima was once the heart of Paphos; a bustling and colourful area. Over the years, declining numbers of visitors and seasonality issues have left businesses struggling to survive. Although a plethora of souvenir shops have sprung up, most sell similar imported goods which are irrelevant to Cyprus and are of little interest to most visitors.
Although the association was only formed a matter of weeks ago, plans are steaming ahead to reinvigorate what was once the heart of the town. According to Hadjigeorgiou, the association has the backing of Paphos municipality.
“We have planned a series of forthcoming events that will be featured in a leaflet which will be issued to hoteliers, travel companies, tourism authorities, shops and other outlets. These include tasting of local wines at a newly constructed ‘sunset deck’ which gives fantastic views of the majestic sunsets,” he said.
Other planned events include, live DJ’s, parades and dancers, along with weekly kids’ activities, which will be offered every Saturday in a bid to attract local families. There is currently a dedicated website under construction, as well as a Facebook page to help with the promotion. Posters highlighting events will also be created.
“A team will also visit hoteliers and explain to them why their frontline personnel should recommend visitors to go to old town,” Hadjigeorgiou said.
He said they intend to work more closely with the municipality and organisers of Paphos 2017, the committee in charge of the town’s successful bid to become the 2017 European Culture Capital, to try enhance the environment of the area. Flowers and hanging baskets have already been hung to add a dash of colour.
“Our priority is to refine the empty buildings and we have made an inventory of these. We are in process of either encouraging owners to open up and maintain them or to cover their facades with carefully selected banners or something artistic to give uniformity and be more pleasing to the eye,” he said.
A study got underway this week to show what is currently available in the area. It will also highlight the gap between what should be available and what is available now, said Hadjigeorgiou. This will work as a tool for newcomers to steer them towards where to invest, he added.
The study is being carried out by architects and experts who have undertaken similar studies in the past.
“If we develop with the correct uses and businesses, it will be a unique place that can’t be copied,” he said:
He pointed out that entire area, including the town hall and public library are good examples of architecture of their kind, adding that there are also a number of museums to visit. There are shops, cafes and restaurants, souvenirs and places of religious interest, such as the hamam, the Turkish mosque and a nearby church as well.
A new local gastronomy tasting centre is due to open in Ktima in a couple of months, where visitors will be able to sample local food and wine. Work is well underway at the site.
In addition, on July 1, a large craft and cultural centre will open its doors to the public. It aims to protect the heritage and culture of Cyprus, in particular the Paphos district.
Currently being created in a defunct building ‘The Place’ will offer a personal experience of Cyprus. Visitors will be able to watch and interact with local craftsmen as they create their specialties, such as pottery, basket weaving and other traditional crafts.
‘The Place’ will have a weekly programme which will include classes, said Hadjigeorgiou. They will be interactive and everything created will also be available to purchase. There will also be demonstrations by local wineries with well trained sommeliers and a dedicated shop selling only traditional Cypriot products such as preserved sweets, Yeroskipou delights, olive oil, herbs, honey, jam and other locally made items.
“Everything will be authentic and has been carefully selected from small family producers or individuals, so there is a story behind each product,” Hadjigeorgiou said:
The association believes that there is a real move for locals to go back to their roots and with its year in the limelight as the European capital of culture fast approaching, the time is right for change.
“People are interested in opening new businesses in the area,” he said. “Recently a new café has opened, and other investors are searching for space for a lounge bar, and retail shops. There is movement and an interest in investing in something new .People realise there is an opportunity here.”
The association is also appraising the accessibility and ease with which people can visit the area. There is a public transport connection which could be improved, he said. In addition, they are also trying to aid with the upgrading of the fruit market which has dwindled over recent years. Growers should be encouraged back into the area and the municipality and 2017 should help to reposition the market which is a heart of any old town, said Hadjigeorgiou.
“The good thing is that people have a desire to visit the old town, but the question is what are we offering them when arrive. The key to success will be them wanting to come every day. People would like to see culture and authenticity.”
‘The Friends of Pafos Old Town’ already has more than 50 members and more are registering their 20 euro fee on a daily basis.
“Anybody who loves this area and wants to support it can become a friend and get involved,” he said.
To become a member contact: – Kyriacos Kyriacou (m) 99 683686