The so-called Tourist Villas will leave us without Land and Tourists (Newspaper TOYRISTIKOS TYPOS – 2nd November 2007)
Three crimes have been committed since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus: The first was the military coup, the second was the notorious Stock Exchange scandal, and the third, strange as it may seem, is the tourist villas.
Permit me to talk about the third of these which concerns the latest crime committed against my country and the future of our children. To quote the well-known saying: “This land is not ours; we are merely borrowing it from our children”.
The coup and invasion and the occupation by Turkey of almost 40% of our territory, which resulted in 200,000 Greek-Cypriot being made refugees, led to a struggle for survival with the use of every possible source of income. Correctly, at the time, the government utilised all possible resources in order to develop tourism. Thus, from 264,000 tourist arrivals we had before the invasion we currently have 2,409.919 (2006) arrivals. Suffice it to mention that before the invasion we had 60 hotel units with a total of 5,771 beds, which employed 2,000 people, and today we have 909 hotel units (with CTO licences – 2006), with a total number of 93,957 beds and 35,700 personnel. Tourism has proved to be for Cyprus “the goose that lays the golden eggs” and has given impetus to all sectors of the economy and raised the income of all citizens, with the result that Cyprus is considered today a developed and prosperous country, despite the deep wound left by the invasion. Unfortunately tourism has gone beyond traditional boundaries. Development companies have sprung up with the aim of constructing tourist villas. These developers purchase mainly barren land at low prices or in exchange for a number of apartments or villas, they make the land look more attractive and then build luxury villas or apartments which they sell for a fat profit chiefly to foreigners. This, in my view, will destroy our tourist product and the quality of our tourism. It is a modern way of selling out our properties and our country as a whole.
We may acquire a couple of tourist villas on a plot of land for our children, but what about our grandchildren, or great-grandchildren? (The developer gets six tourist villas). In the future our grandchildren will have to buy homes in order to live on land which in the recent past their parents had allowed to pass into the hands of strangers.
Examples of this practice include the beautiful areas of Kappari, Vrisouthkia in the Protaras area, Ayia Thekla in the Ayia Napa area, Paphos, etc. Now all we see there are cement cities that we have created by exchanging land for apartments, instead of theme parks presenting our traditional agricultural area and the everyday way of life of past times. Nothing of what is taking place will attract quality tourism. The CTO, the Members of the House of Representatives, the local authorities and even the Hotel Association and others involved in the sector pay only lip service to quality tourism.
From the hotels and other services the municipalities gain significant income, while from the tourist villas all they have to gain is income from the use of water and the collection of refuse. If tourism is developed in the right way we could see a fall in unemployment, more opportunities could be given to our youth and the problem of seasonal employment would be solved.
Instead, all we think about is easy money to satisfy present needs, without a thought for the future of our children and the country as a whole. How many times are we going to sell out this island? The development of tourist villas could lead to extraordinary situations, such as we witnessed in Peyeia where the majority of inhabitants are non-Cypriots and in the near future the new Mayor and Municipal Authorities could be foreign.
I am from Paralimni and I can testify that we have suffered greatly from developments in Protaras. This should be a lesson to us. We sell and sell without a thought, without consideration for the future, without correct programming, without vision. We do everything for today, for easy money. Protaras has become an advertising billboard: menus on the pavements, people touting for business, badly constructed buildings, irregularities in shops and restaurants and the “most attractive” thing that a visitor to Protaras will see are the estate agents’ offices selling tourist villas and apartments. NOTHING ELSE CAN BE SEEN, except a ghost town, without tourists, without anything.
Let us not overlook the possibility that there may be some form of a solution to the Cyprus problem, in which case all investments will gradually move to the occupied part of Famagusta.
We are therefore duty bound to protect and look after the goose that for years has laid golden eggs and was the mainstay of our economy, and not sacrifice it at the altar of quick and easy profit. All the agencies and organisations of our country with grandiloquent plans, with vision, hard work and love for the country are duty bound to heed the messages and problems of the times and support the basis of the economy of our island.