By Angelos Anastasiou
THE CYPRUS Tourism Organisation has a call centre manned with eight staff to address health, safety and service violations by tourist service providers, and it does, the CTO said on Wednesday.
A high-ranking CTO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was responding to complaints of profiteering and poor service quality at two Ayia Napa hotels, made by tourists to consumer rights advocate Loucas Aristodemou.
Aristodemou had said he had tried to reach CTO director Marios Hannides but was told the CTO boss was abroad.
“We have an eight-strong call centre for consumer complaints,” the official said. “It seems hard for me to believe that two hundred people are able to find us on a daily basis but Mr Aristodemou was unable to. We encourage consumers to contact us with any complaints, and I think he could have found us if he tried.”
According to the CTO source, besides complaints from consumers, CTO staff also act independently, “monitoring Tripadvisor and other social networking sites in order to identify weaknesses.”
But the consumer rights advocate maintained that since the complaints were made public, the CTO could and should have taken the initiative to investigate and address them.
“We are doing this today,” the CTO official said. “The Famagusta chief inspector has been instructed on Wednesday morning to contact him and investigate the complaints.”
However, as of late afternoon on Wednesday, Aristodemou said no one from the CTO had yet been in touch with him.
The government’s tourism body claimed it adheres to a zero-tolerance policy on health, safety and service violations.
“Legal action against tourist establishments found in violation of rules is not an end in itself,” the Cyprus Mail was told by the CTO. “But if it comes to that, we are up for it.”
But what can be done if the complaints made public by Aristodemou are investigated and found true?
“For cases of overcharging, things are quite straightforward,” said the CTO source. “Payment receipts and other evidence can corroborate the customer complaint, and money can be refunded to wronged consumers – even if they have returned abroad. This has happened in the past.”
With regard to health and safety or customer service issues, things get complicated. The CTO can run joint inspections with the Health Service and take action if health and safety regulations are breached, ranging from placing the hotel under monitoring to shutting it down until standards are met.
And for customer service issues very little can be done as complaints tend to follow a he-said-she-said pattern.
“We can’t turn back time and check the facts,” the CTO official said. “Such cases usually come down to personal testimony.”
Consumers are advised to bring complaints to the CTO’s attention as soon as possible, preferably before their visits are over, so the organisation can address them timely, the source said.
CTO consumer complaints can be contacted on 22691100