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Cyprus' mountain resorts struggle to make ends meet despite rise in tourism

The main issues include inadequate transportation, non-inclusion of mountain resorts in tour packages and unfair competition from unlicensed hospitality venues

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Famous picturesque Mountain Village resort of Pedoulas in the Nicosia district at Troodos mountains in Cyprus. Photo: Dreamstime/ Michalakis Palis.

24 August 2016

Unlike their colleagues from the coastal areas of Cyprus, hoteliers of the mountain resorts are not fully satisfied with the occupancy rate of their hotels, in a year of record tourist arrivals on the island.

Hotel occupancy in mountain resorts by mid-August is considered to be sluggish, while during the peak period between 14 -19 August it is expected to be satisfactory. Increased traffic these days is not considered good enough to compensate for the low occupancy or the losses of the previous months, hoteliers maintain.

As president of the Commission of Mountain Resorts of the Cyprus Hotels Association Andreas Mandalas has told CNA, these days until August 14 hotel occupancy in mountain resorts is around 60 per cent and is expected to reach 100 per cent in the period 14-19 August and fall again close to 50 per cent by the end of August. Occupancy rates were much lower in July and especially during the period February to May, when hotels operated even at a loss.

The lack of adequate transportation to and from the island's airports and coastal areas, the non-inclusion of mountain resorts in the packages of major tour operators and unfair competition from non-licensed hospitality venues are the main problems raised by hoteliers of the mountain areas.

Around 98 per cent of the tourists who choose mountain resorts are Cypriots. A large proportion of domestic tourism in the summer benefits from a plan of subsidised holidays by the Ministry of Labour. Praising the Minister of Labour Zeta Aimilianidou for this plan, Mandalas expressed the hope that it will be expanded from a five-day duration to seven days, and apply from early July until the end of September.

While tourism in Cyprus is experiencing one of its best years and hotels in the coastal areas are fully booked, hoteliers in the mountain areas seem to be fighting for survival, according to Mandalas. Hotels in the mountain areas are trying to survive, especially after Cyprus' economic crisis that peaked in 2013, and some of them have already closed, he said, noting that sometimes they feel that the battle is unfair.

As he explained, while the hoteliers must comply with all the requirements of the state and have all the relevant licenses, there are those who operate illegally, converting apartments and houses into rented rooms without being bothered by anyone. He also complained that this illegality is boosted by online booking portals, which agree to promote any accommodation without any consideration as to its legal status.

Another problem he notes is the use of accommodation in the mountain resorts, maintained by trade unions for their members, by persons who are not members, which creates unfair competition, since these vacation homes do not have the same obligations as those the hoteliers have to comply with.
Hoteliers of the mountain areas are trying to highlight the natural beauty, cultural heritage, bicycle paths and the paths of nature that can become an attraction for foreign tourists who come to Cyprus with specific travel packages and spend their time almost exclusively in coastal areas.

As Andreas Mandalas pointed out, the main problem is transportation from the two airports of Pafos, on the west, and Larnaca, on the south, as well as from the coastal cities of Cyprus. The hoteliers have discussed the issue with the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) that promised to find a way to subsidise some bus routes in order to help with the situation.

He also said that they are trying to include mountain resorts in the organised packages at least for two days as part of a broader package of 10 to 14 days. For this purpose, as he said, there are discussions with CTO. They also try to upgrade their hotels to reach the level of the hotels in coastal towns. The CTO will launch a plan in September to provide incentives for upgrading the hotels.

The hoteliers of the mountain areas await the government's decision on the authorisation of a casino-resort in Cyprus, and will then request licence for mini-casinos that would enhance tourism in the region.

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