By Bejay Browne
AN HOTELIER has hit back at accusations by the Paphos Greens that his company is illegally encroaching on the beach in front of one of their Paphos properties, saying they are incorrect and misleading.
The spat concerns the revamping and renovation of the five star hotel, Olympic Lagoon Resort Paphos – previously the Amathus hotel. The extensive renovation is being carried out by Kanika Hotels and Resorts Ltd, which operate a number of hotels across the island. The hotel overlooks a prime piece of the coast.
The district committee of the Green Party Paphos announced earlier this week that they are investigating “illegal interventions” in the protected zone of the beach in front of the hotel and called on authorities to intervene. The announcement said the illegalities included the building of a platform for civil weddings on the beach.
A spokesman for the Paphos Greens said any intervention to change the natural landscape of the area was illegal.
“We want to protect this zone, which is also the law, and prohibits actions being carried out close to the sea and which includes wildflowers,” he said.
However, Kanika Group’s executive chairman, Spyros Karaolis, hit back at the claims which he described as false.
“I am surprised and greatly saddened by the reaction to works underway at the hotel which is due to open on June 1. Press reports into the alleged beach intervention are incorrect and misleading,” he told the Cyprus Mail on Thursday.
Karaolis said that the reports suggested the company had invaded the beach with bulldozers and are destroying the area.
“This couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “It’s our intention to clean up the area and get rid of illegal eyesores, something the local authorities should’ve done twenty years ago.”
He said was disappointed with the way local politicians and authorities were reacting.
“No one has asked or investigated what we are really doing to discover the facts.”
The beachside plot in front of the hotel covers around 7,000 m2 and the hotel has an agreement with the authorities, as did the previous owners, to place sunbeds and umbrellas there, he said.
The company chairman said that pictures on the Kanika website showing a wedding being held on a platform made of stone and close to the sea are outdated and that the idea was scrapped a while ago, in favour of a wedding garden, following a meeting with the district office.
“About a year ago, we applied to create a small and simple wedding garden in which to hold small civil weddings. We are still waiting for an answer. There would be no more than two a day. They last for twenty minutes and guests number around twenty. This isn’t for big Cypriots weddings where guests can number two and a half thousand,” he said.
He said that the garden will enhance the area, measure 5m by 7m and consist of grass, palm trees and some flowers.
“On the one hand the Cyprus Tourism Organisation promotes Cyprus as a destination for weddings as one of their main targets and yet they don’t pay us any attention to our complaints.”
Karaolis said that the wedding garden will generate around 150,000 euros a year for Paphos municipality with only one or two weddings a day.
The hotelier said that forty palm trees have been planted along a pathway to enhance the area and a couple of unattractive and illegal buildings which the authorities failed to anything about are being sorted out.
“We are investing 100 million euros in the area as a whole and a further 50 million euros to come, as we have applied to build a new hotel next to the Alexander the Great hotel. The government will make huge amounts of money in taxes and instead of helping us clean the beach and promote such actions, we get all of their negativity,” he said.