The chairman of the island’s tourism organization (CTO) said on Thursday that hotels and restaurants in Cyprus comply with health and safety rules, seeking to allay concerns raised after an auditor-general report said the majority had no valid operating licences in 2016.
Speaking before the House watchdog committee, Angelos Loizou said the matter will be resolved when parliament approves a regulatory framework that simplifies procedures and reduces red tape.
Loizou said there is no problem if a hotel has a health and safety permit.
“If there are cases where there is a health and safety issue that is where we intervene; we want to examine the case, look at the reasons, and if necessary, we will ask for a court order shutting it down,” he said. “Fortunately, we don’t have this problem.”
He said the crux of the matter is the CTO issuing a licence. Currently around nine others also have to be issued by other authorities that have nothing to do with tourism but still have to be secured.
“All these matters must be streamlined and that is why there is a bill concerning the regulatory framework, which deals with all these problems.”
In a report published last week, the auditor-general said some 73 per cent of hotels and 36 per cent of restaurants and leisure centres were operating without licences in 2016.
At the end of 2016 there were 233 hotels and 3,570 recreational centres operating, and due to the failure to meet the requirements of the relevant legislation, licences were renewed for only 63 hotels and 2,282 restaurants, the report said.
Out of 26 five-star hotels, only six had a valid operating licence and only 12 out of 57 in the four-star category.
Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides said the final approval of buildings is often seen as a formality ‘but there are also times when it is an issue of substance’.
He said the state is right in letting owners secure approval certificates with footnotes or non-approved work, which are issued when the problems are not so important.
Hotels however, had failed to comply with certain obligations, he added.
Committee chairman Zaharias Koulias sought to play down the matter, saying that it was wrongly represented.
“It was more or less revealed that there are hotels in Cyprus that operate without permits,” he said. “This was wrongly represented, either in good faith or in bad, and we must all be very careful when we talk about our tourism.”
Koulias said foreigners consider Cypriot hotels as top class and if some cannot secure a licence because of planning regulations, that was a different matter.
If some others didn’t succeed in securing a permit for other procedural reasons, it does not concern the operation or the quality, or the health and safety of the people staying there.
Koulias added that there was no hotel without insurance coverage.