By Bejay Browne
TOURISM officials in Paphos are cautiously optimistic for the winter season and say more than half of the tourist beds in the area are in full operation. They were quick to quash rumours that ninety per cent of hotels are closing for the winter, saying it simply wasn’t true.
Evripides Loizides of the Paphos branch of the Cyprus Hotels Association (PASYXE) said: “Bed capacity is reduced in Paphos during the winter months, as with other areas of the island due to a number of seasonality issues, but its nothing like the figures which are being bandied about. Furthermore, if we can come up with a masterplan now, increasing annual visitor numbers to Cyprus to 5 million isn’t difficult.”
Head of the Paphos regional board of tourism, Nasos Hadjigeorgiou said: “Figures show that over 50 per cent of tourist beds in Paphos are in full operation, with a capacity to accommodate around 250,000 travelers between December 2014 and March 2015.”
He said huge efforts were being made to increase visitor numbers for these months and extend the summer season to the end of November, and to have it begin as early as March.
“We are making concerted efforts to attract more airlines to Paphos and increase the numbers of flights and destinations,” he said.
Figures show that the number of British tourists to Cyprus stabalised last year and all signs for 2014 suggested an increase, said Hadjigeorgiou.
Loizides said that further improvement in expanding the summer season could be achieved with forward planning.
“At present, some hotels are forced to close during the winter months in an attempt to curb inevitable losses,” he said.
He explained that a hotel with a capacity of 220 beds which closes for five months – from the end of November to April – would make a loss of between €100,000 to €150,000. But if it remained in full operation it would make losses of around €400,000. He said he believes the government could step in and prevent closures from occurring.
“If the government was ready to give the 9 per cent VAT charges away, it could use this money to create an incentive to airlines. If the average ten day holiday costs €600 that’s €54 in VAT. That could be offered as an incentive.”
Loizides said that many more hotels would remain open if there was an increase in visitor numbers, and staff would have jobs all year round, so it would cost the state less.
Eleftherios Georgiades, the general secretary of the union for hotel employees said hoteliers had to take some risks as well as taking incentives from the state.
“The situation depends a lot on the hoteliers to be successful and it would be a vast improvement if they manage to stay mostly open and only close for one or two months,” he said. “Last year the employees gave back many benefits in an attempt to help the situation and we remain open for dialogue.”
He added that even though there were some hotel closures this season, “with all of the efforts being made to enhance the accessibility of Paphos and the new flights which will commence from March 2015, we feel there is a real move towards positive change and results, especially concerning off season and spring time visitors.”
Loizides agreed: “We are on the right track to see increases in the number of winter visitors and we have to ensure that no market ‘dies off’, as it will be hard to kick start again.”