A CYPRUS Tourism Organisation (CTO) official yesterday described the ripping off of tourists as “suicide” following reports that someone had been charged £25 to rent a sunbed and umbrella on a beach in Limassol.
Machi newspaper yesterday reported several instances of overcharging tourists, ranging from the £25 sunbed to £1 for a small bottle of water, to instances of separate menus with different prices for locals and tourists, with one in English and one in Greek.
Previous shocking rip-offs have included people being charged £3 for an ice cream, £10 for two pints of beer and £9 for a kebab.
“This is an act of suicide,” said Glafcos Kariolou, the CTO official in charge of beach regulations, referring to the sunbed incident, which happened near a hotel beach.
“We have huge problems dealing with the administration of some beaches,” he said, but added that the majority of beaches complied with regulations.
The recommended prices for a sunbed and umbrella is £1.25 each. “This was a specific complaint about a specific beach,” he said, making it clear it was not under the control of the hotel itself, which had been blamed for the incident.
Commenting on the other allegations of overcharging, a second CTO official, Kyriacos Kyriacou, said the number of complaints received annually by the CTO remained stable. Sixty per cent of all complaints came from Cypriots rather than tourists and 25 per cent from Britons, the island’s biggest tourism market, he said.
Of the 162 complaints received last year only 20 related to overcharging, Kyriacou said, with most of the rest relating to the lack of cleanliness and bad service.
Since 2000, the number of complaints received by the CTO has hovered between 150 and 180 per year.
Commenting on the allegations that restaurants handed out differently-priced menus in English or Greek, depending on their clientele, Kyriacou said this was not a common practice. “The regulations oblige them to submit their priced menu for approval to the CTO,” he said. Anyone found charging more than what is required from the menu can end up in court and receive a fine.
“Overcharging in establishments is taken very seriously,” said Kyriacou, who said that some 60 per cent of complaints against restaurants were justified.
Hoteliers’ Association Director General Zacharias Ioannides told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that they were totally opposed to such practices.
“We expect from the authorities and the CTO to take all the necessary measures to eliminate such sad behaviour, which is not compatible with the good reputation of Cyprus,” Ioannides said.
He said his association had no power over renegade operators but added that the CTO was quite satisfied that 99.9 per cent of hotels in Cyprus were compliant with regulations.
Neither the CTO nor the government can do anything about overcharging in shops and kiosks, as Cyprus operates under a free market economy.
In one recent incident a man who picked up a small bottle of water from a kiosk on the Larnaca sea front was asked for £1 until he questioned the price in Greek. When the owner realised the man was Cypriot, he apologised saying he had thought he was a foreigner, and charged him 40 cents instead.
The Cyprus Mail understands that the CTO is collecting all information about overcharging incidents in every area of the tourism sector to see what can be done or whether shops and kiosks in tourist areas have been involved in price fixing.