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Cutting corners on quality

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A recent survey by the Consumers Association should have rung alarm bells throughout the leisure industry but was overlooked by the tourism establishment, namely the hoteliers, restaurant and bar owners, the deputy ministry of shipping and, of course, the trade unions.

Not without its shortcomings, the survey confirmed what we already knew – Cyprus is an expensive destination, drink and food prices are exorbitant, and sometimes service is lousy.

The survey concluded that some eateries are cutting corners on the quantity and quality of the dishes to keep costs low, while restaurants serve non-traditional halloumi, skimp on the salad’s fancy bits, and sneak in seed oil into your olive oil.

This is not the dining experience Cyprus needs if we intend to attract new tourists to replace the Ukrainians and Russians who never showed up last year because of the war, and the Israelis are now reconsidering the brief trip across the sea because of Gaza.

The Association’s initiative is commendable for doing what others should have done long ago, even though the 200 anonymous visits to 50 establishments could have been enhanced.

Nevertheless, the result would still be the same.

We’ve heard Cabinet members declaring they would launch a tell-all online platform, restaurant owners saying they would introduce a public rating system with comments on social media, and none of these ever taking shape.

There are ways to monitor and rank the public comments, with complex algorithms that would serve as a great tool for tourism stakeholders if they’re genuinely keen on ensuring we have a future in tourism.

Cyprus cannot compete with the premium Aegean island resorts of Mykonos and Santorini.

The ‘traditional’ Greek islands of Crete and Corfu are riding a constantly improving wave, while other East Med destinations, such as Tunisia, Sharm El Sheikh and Antalya, continue to lure millions of vacationers based on affordable prices.

The CCA said the main issues are that restaurant owners and staff need more schooling.

This includes almost every diner’s experience of facing arrogance at some establishments, either because the owner enjoys ties to a well-connected person or politician or they opt not to implement the simple regulations for decades, even shoo-ing customers from tavernas.

Now that the Russians, Ukrainians, and Israelis are not visiting, perhaps some attitudes will change, but rest assured, these will only be temporary unless the deputy ministry in charge starts cracking the whip and sets an example, no matter who the restaurateur is related to.

More support is needed to sift through the millions of data and establish impartial benchmarks, projecting a genuine image of Cyprus tourism and the support services unrelated to commercial awards, which will help us improve the local product.

The lull in the winter months must be used to assess the facts properly and consider what options we have, as other exogenous parameters, such as regional conflicts, recessions in certain economies, and natural disasters of fires and floods, will continue to impact the tourism industry, admittedly the true lifeline of Cyprus.