By Bejay Browne
ONGOING efforts to lure visitors and shoppers back to Paphos’ old town are continuing with a first of a kind event planned for later this month.
Kyriacos Kyriacou, 47, who heads the ‘Pafos old town association’, has two shops in the area and he said that a joint collaboration with the Paphos municipality cultural department and ‘Pafos 2017’ will see a day of celebrations in Paphos on December 21.
“A number of empty shops will be used as ‘pop- up’ shops and there will be a small cinema showing films, a storytelling venue for children, an exhibition and retail selling of Christmas products.”
The Christmas Street fair will take place on the streets around Makarios Avenue and beyond and will include an array of events, as well as music and food.
“There are only a few visitors to the centre and progress is hindered by the economic crisis, the shopping malls and department stores which take people away from the old town,” Kyriacou said.
The association which was formed in April 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.
The old town, also known as 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.
However, Kyriacou said proposed plans for the area include pedestrianisation and added that businesses are also being attracted to Ktima as rents are low and new businesses are starting to open, such as tavernas and kafenios.
“Next year we are expecting the plans to upgrade the area to get underway. The area has been ‘let go’ for so many years and we have to give it back its identity and sense of tradition. We want this part of Paphos to reclaim a lost culture which you can now only find in some villages.”
The association head said that their aim is to establish the old town is a ‘must-see’ area within a couple of years, both for visitors to the island as well as locals.
“I studied why city centres are dying and read a lot of interesting research from the UK. I realised that it’s not just about the shops.”
Kyriacou added that a wide range of scandals culminating with the resignation of the mayor of Paphos, Savvas Vergas, has left the public feeling raw, angry and confused.
“This current period is like a death which has to come first before we can rise again. And we really can do that if people believe in Paphos and try to work towards a goal.”
The area has faced a number of obstacles over the last few years, more recently with public transport issues.
Kyriacou said that since 2010 public transport has been a problem with a new system dividing the town into two, the tourist area and the non tourist area.
The main bus station was moved from Karavella in Ktima to Kato Paphos. Karavella is mostly used as a hub for intercity busses.
“We are pressing the government to move the station back to the old town and not to outside the Mall as some private investors are pushing for. Right now people working in the tourist industry don’t even mention the old town. Instead they push the harbour, the Coral Bay area and the Paphos mall for shopping. The all inclusive holidays are also having a devastating effect on the local economy. This needs to change,” he said.
Kyriacou said that there is a desperate need for balance, which would allow residents to be proud of the centre and protect it.
“Along with us, hotel owners receive complaints from visitors who question what is the identity and culture of Paphos. Is it just a plastic tourist area, they ask. We urgently need to move away from this image.”
Kyriacou said this can be achieved by renovating and beautifying and encouraging investment.
“We need to improve our product and our destination and we see the old town as a future destination for all.”
Paphos Christmas Street Fair Sunday December 21st 11- 4pm at Paphos old town commercial centre.