As the clock ticks closer to the opening of Melco’s casino resort in Zakaki, Limassol, stakeholders appear to be excited for the tourism prospects the project is bound to bring to the once neglected area.

City of Dreams Mediterranean casino resort will be opening its doors to the public on July 10, and according to the director of Limassol’s tourism board, Maria Stylianou Michailidou, this is going to be a leap forward for the city’s efforts to attract quality tourism.

From a large conference centre to broadening winter tourism options as well as increasing Limassol’s accommodation capacity by 1,000 persons per night, Michaeilidou highlights the development is also “broadening interest from tourist markets in Israel, the Middle East and other European countries.”

Beyond attracting just gamblers, the resort will offer daily entertainment at its venues that will enable it to serve as a source of varied activities that tourists can enjoy during the winter period, during which Cyprus sees less foot traffic and pastime options available, she explains.

“We are also very satisfied with the fact that Cyprus’ biggest conference space will be in our city.”

Nicosia’s Filoxenia centre has generally topped the charts in terms of capacity, leaving Limassol with the ability to handle smaller events, however this will now change, Michaeilidou notes.

Additionally, the hotel will drastically increase the number of available beds for visitors to the city, she adds. Limassol ranks far behind its counterparts in Paphos and Famagusta, with around 5,000 rooms available per night, compared to 13,800 and 18,500 respectively.

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A lot has been said about the slew of jobs the 7,500 square metre project is set to bring, and the broader impact on the local economy (Photo: Christos Theodorides)

Nonetheless, it is very much in line with Limassol’s “branding” Michaelidou explains. “What we strive for is premium, quality travellers. Most hotels in Limassol are four to five stars. There are of course Airbnb’s and more affordable alternatives, but the city’s branding is concerned with quality.”

With the company promoting the project as Europe’s first integrated casino project, this will cement the city’s place on the map and also “spearhead development in the western part of Limassol,” she adds.

Though there have been observations on the growing interest in online gambling, Michaelidou states there is still a market for exclusively gambling travelers who seek out destinations for their casino options. She also highlights the resort is not only available for gaming but also daily entertainment venues, restaurants, and spa facilities – a resort experience that’s much more than a gamble.

A lot has also been said about the slew of jobs the 7,500 square metre project is set to bring, and the broader impact on the local economy.

Zakaki’s mukhtar Andreas Demetriades told the Cyprus Mail the onset of the growing development in the area has left residents “very happy.”

“The value of properties has skyrocketed. Zakaki was unheard of before.”

Indeed, on the outskirts of Limassol, Zakaki was seen as a derelict area, with a bad reputation for a horrid mosquito problem.

The change began in 2009 with the opening of My Mall in the area, which started bringing more footprint to Zakaki. The area is close to the Akrotiri wetland and Lady’s Mile beach which the resort boasts will be the view for its 500 rooms.

Other projects nearby are the Fasouri waterpark and a planned golf resort.

“The residents are very happy about all this.”

Demetriades explains an added advantage of the resort’s location is that it is not constructed in an area clustered with lots of homes. It is parked right next to the mall with only a few houses scattered around the immediate vicinity.

Concerns about the impact on the area’s nature however have been raised in the past.

In fact, even last year, Limassol’s mayor Nicos Nicolaides, was quoted expressing raising red flags about the importance of taking action immediately as there was “unprecedented interfering” in the Akrotiri wetlands ecosystem.

Much of the surrounding area falls under British bases territory, which Michaelidou attributes as the reason why Lady’s Mile beach has not been plied with cement. However, the restaurants on the beach strip have already seen an increase in visitors, she says.

Though the project has been delayed by two years, attributed in part to the supply chain crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the company has said it is excited and “poised to revolutionise the island’s tourism and hospitality sectors.”

The mukhtar has also heralded the company’s moves to fund equipment for the schools in the area and donations for vulnerable groups.

Melco Resort was not available for comment.