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Mountain villages need action plan

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You must have already guessed I have a soft spot for the mountain resorts and villages.

The establishment of the Deputy Ministry of Tourism, the appointment of a Rural Development Commissioner, and the various infrastructural projects announced or under construction offer positive pluses for mountain villages.

To this end, the assistance to buy property for permanent residents in rural areas, the rising temperatures, the improving access and communications, and the small-scale improvements within the communities, are most positive.

After 42 years in this industry, for the first time, I have seen a noticeable interest by Cypriots (and foreigners) to establish their houses and, to a lesser extent, small scale businesses in such rural locations.

But a lot of work is still needed in this direction:

  • Affordable and fast Internet – A costly installation for a home connection in the village costs around €40 p.m. and in my opinion, it should either be offered free to all, or at least for students who live there.
  • Events – The various cultural, folk and community events that many villages have organised have been cancelled (and the subsidies unpaid), which is a major loss for promotion and tourist visitors.
  • Christmas decoration – A great idea to choose the five best villages with the vision of having a similar Christmas atmosphere, such as in Austria, Germany, and other central European destinations.
  • Promotion of Cyprus culture – If one looks at Greece with its numerous cultural associations and community clubs promoting local dances and such activities, religious celebrations. Such groups should be given generous subsidies to set up events and even small salaries for the active involvement of individuals (if they live in such locations). In contrast, such festivities should have subsidised bus travel from the towns aiming at foreign visitors in particular, while also helping reduce drink-and-drive incidents.
  • Forest fires are an issue of major concern — Running to put out fires after the event is not a solution, even if we use modern methods such as fire-fighting planes. Prevention is always the best solution, and for this, I have often suggested the employment of forest rangers permanently.
  • The inefficiency of local authorities is a major minus. For example, some friends wanted to buy Phini pottery, which is a dying art, and we brought a foreign visitor with us. Unfortunately, having visited the village and notwithstanding 1-2 signs where we can find the shops, we did not manage to do it after two separate visits.
  • Tent camp (Yurks) at Platres. This “development” was stopped after our efforts, and to the extent, the local Council wrote to us complaining that we were acting without knowledge. The same Council had told us the local environment (including cutting down four pine trees, mounting rubbish) would be restored – some 1½ years after this, we have seen no progress.
  • The inefficiency of local councils and the central government extends to all sorts of inactions, including those of the Troodos Government housing (exploited free of charge by civil servants – hence the inaction), the adventure park at Troodos by the Russian investor who got no reply after 1½ year and abandoned it.
  • The Commissioner of the Mountain Resorts and the Troodos area village councils must become more active and include the subsidy for children who study and remain in their villages but have a problem with efficient transport and telecommunication. How can we attract young families to live in those villages when a child needs to wake up at 5 a.m. in winter to catch the bus to be at school at 07.30 (let alone after school activities).
  • Heating is a major problem, and although I understand we have several schemes of subsidies, this is not enough. Our friend, an oenologist, who works at Omodos, is paying €500 p.m. for heating. She is now leaving.

I wonder if we are alone in this, but you see, mountain residents are in small numbers and do not have the voting muscle to help towards further improvement of the situation.

Antonis Loizou Real Estate Valuer, Estate Agent & Property Consultant