By Bejay Browne
For sailing centres and tourist officials alike, this week’s announcement that construction on a new marina in Ayia Napa is scheduled to start in mid-2015 was welcome news indeed.
Coastal and marine tourism, including sailing, are all part of what the EU calls ‘blue growth’ and the blue economy represents around 5.4 million jobs in the EU, almost €500 billion a year. Not surprisingly, Cyprus is eager to boost its slice of this profitable market and is seeking to do so with the help of private investors and EU funds.
Last year saw the official opening of the Limassol marina with berths for 650 boats. The complex includes apartments, villas, restaurants and shops.
The €220 million Ayia Napa project announced this week is a 30/70 split between Caramondani Bros and Egyptian billionaire businessman Naguib Sawiris’ construction company. Work is expected to get underway in a few months, once the tender process is complete and building permits have been issued, and will take three years to complete.
The project will develop about 1,200 metres of beachfront and include villas, apartments and a five or six-star hotel. It will create 1,000 jobs – 800 during construction and 200 for the operation of the marina.
“`The people are nice, the weather is nice, the country is beautiful, so it has all the ingredients for a successful tourist project. Our intention with this project is to put Ayia Napa back on the tourist map,” said Sawiris after his involvement was announced.
At the other end of the island in Paphos, blue growth is also being actively promoted, though a planned new marina is currently on hold.
“Marine tourism and sea activities are a top priority for us and part of the 2014-2020 tourism expansion plan. We are focusing on getting EU funding for blue growth projects,” said Paphos regional board of tourism, Nasos Hadjigeorgiou.
Hadjigeorgiou said that recent studies have shown that Paphos could be a major centre for marine activities such as diving, windsurfing and kite surfing.
“We are also close to introducing the first official snorkelling park in Cyprus; that will happen sometime this year,” he said.
The harbours in Kato Paphos and Latsi are popular destinations with sea lovers, but longstanding plans for a new marina were scuppered after infighting between two companies involved in the tender process.
“The matter is currently being dealt with in the courts and I hope it will be resolved soon,” said Hadjigeorgiou.
If eventually built, the marina in Potima Bay in Kissonerga in Paphos will have berth space for 1,000 boats.
“This is such an important sector for the tourism industry and we are doing all that we can to improve on what we are offering. Not only are we refining beachfront areas, enhancing facilities and safety aspects, but we are also working closely with private experts to enrich the sea activities offered.”
One such company is Paphos-based ‘SailFirst’, which is looking to help the island establish itself as an all year round sailing destination and is actively promoting Cyprus to the European market.
For the second time, they have just presented Cyprus at Boot Düsseldorf – one of the biggest boat shows in the world – which ran from January 17 to 25.
SailFirst, a professional sailing centre, also operates in Limassol and Latsi. They have an extensive sailing fleet suitable for both novices and professionals and offer a wide range of services including amateur, corporate and professional regattas.
“The main message that we want to pass to European sailors, is that Cyprus offers variety of magnificent places for sailing lovers to visit and its hospitality is world-renowned,” said company manager, Michael Nicholas.
Less rosy in terms of blue growth is the situation in Larnaca where plans for a new marina have been scuppered by the financial crisis.
The Zenon consortium, consisting of the Paraskevaides Group, Iacovou Bros, Petrolina and Vouros, had signed an agreement with the government in 2012 for the development of the Larnaca port and marina worth a reported €700m.
Under the deal, the consortium was supposed to secure funding for the project within six months from its signing but due to the economic meltdown local banks pulled out.
Since late 2012, when the contract was concluded, the government has granted Zenon eight extensions, the last one expiring on February 15.
Communications and Works Minister Marios Demetriades warned this week that if current plans fall flat, the government will commence with a new bid for the transformation of the marina.
For companies like SailFirst such transformations are crucial to successful blue growth.
“More than 320 days of sun and wind are available for sailing, and modern marinas make Cyprus a perfect sailing spot all year round,” said Nicholas.