FOR two weeks running, this newspaper has received multiple complaints from visitors to Cyprus about the chaotic situation at Paphos airport, especially at the understaffed passport control area, which is the dominion of immigration police.
It’s not a new situation but what is new is that nothing has been done about it yet. The authorities here must be still living in the dark ages if they think a holiday destination can hide its shortcomings for long in an era where the Internet and particularly social media rule people’s lives.
Nowadays, instant karma is no longer just a John Lennon lyric. The press of a button can destroy anyone in seconds… globally. An ongoing problem ensures it’s tweeted or face-booked repeatedly,. Worse still is being regularly featured on travel review sites for all the wrong reasons.
Before pointing the finger, the reasons are simple. Low-cost carriers tend to operate on Wednesdays and Sundays and Paphos airport is small. Leaving the passport desks understaffed just makes it worse with the average delay in reaching an immigration officer at around two hours. It’s easy to cite extra security but that’s just an excuse.
Passengers should bear in mind that if they find themselves queued up to walk to a plane or off a plane that it’s not necessarily the airport’s fault. Neither is the shortage of people manning passport control the fault of the airport or even the police. Using a low-cost carrier where people are herded like cattle with ‘no frills’ and a maximum of discomfort, doesn’t help.
But the bulk of the blame here lies squarely with the tourism authorities of the government whose job it is to make sure the arrival experience for visitors in memorable for all the right reasons.
The solution is simple, find the money to hire extra police for the airports. There are only two airports after all. The government is being pressed left and right for money by much less deserving factions than those trying to create a good first impression of the island.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Sunday they hoped to invite tenders by summer for private firms to take the burden of screening to free up more police for passport control and security. This however will come too late to sort out the problems this year, and possibly even next year given the slow pace of bidding processes. Good luck ‘Pafos 2017’.
If tourism is Cyprus’ bread and butter as the government claims, they need to find a way to ease the problem in the meantime. Just because neighbouring countries are troubled and we expect another bumper tourism year doesn’t mean Cyprus’ good fortune will last forever. The island still seems to have trouble shaking off the outdated mentality that tourism is a passing trade and not an ongoing relationship with visitors from the minute they land until they leave, and hopefully come back again.