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Illegal hotel conversions

THE Cyprus Technical Chamber (ETEK) yesterday accused the government of standing idly by while ailing hoteliers illegally convert their hotels into residential properties. ETEK has compiled a list of 30 hotels which have converted to apartment blocks without permission from the Town Planning Department. Six of the hotels are in Limassol and one was selling […]

THE Cyprus Technical Chamber (ETEK) yesterday accused the government of standing idly by while ailing hoteliers illegally convert their hotels into residential properties.

ETEK has compiled a list of 30 hotels which have converted to apartment blocks without permission from the Town Planning Department.

Six of the hotels are in Limassol and one was selling its converted apartments for nearly €1.5 million each.

Bear in mind that although we may be talking of a very small number of hotels, but this itself is only a small percentage of the number of illegal buildings that really exist,” said ETEK’s Linos Chrysostomou.

He said if the authorities were asked what they were doing about it, they would likely say they were acting on the issue.

But the reality is they really can’t act because there is no political will to act,” said Chrysostomou.

Chrysostomou said millions of euros were being made from the illegal conversions, and he questioned how owners were being allowed to break the law.

ETEK said the safety specifications for hotel buildings and residential buildings were different and in some cases the conversion could pose a danger to new residents.

The organisation expressed concern that many of the hotel properties when they were converted were not complying with anti-seismic regulations.

Twenty tears ago during the Cyprus tourism boom, the main concern was the illegal conversion of residential properties into hotels but tourism has slumped in recent years and many hoteliers are trying to leave the business.

Two years ago the government and the Cyprus Tourism Organisation came up with a scheme for the withdrawal of some 10,000 lower standard tourist beds from the market in an attempt to upgrade the product.

This would leave around 90,000 beds on the market in total.

However hotel occupancy has become so low that some three and four star hotels have joined the exodus. New estimates say that as many as 30,000 beds could be withdrawn.

In addition, the incentives for withdrawing the beds have not yet become available due to government red tape. Tired of waiting, fed-up owners have turned to the property boom to offload their ailing businesses, and developers are more than eager to pay up for prime beach locations.

Only last year one estate agent had five hotels for sale on his books in the space of a week.

But Chrysostomou said using the delay in incentives to illegally convert was a “cheap excuse” and the lure of easy profit.

There is no excuse to break the law,” he said. “We are a country with laws and we need to abide by them. It seems we only abide by the laws we want to abide by“.

Under the law, the owners of the converted buildings could be fined up to €17,000 depending on the nature and gravity of the offence. They could also be fined up to €170 per day.

The Cyprus Hoteliers Association PASYXE said yesterday that to date they had struck off 20-30 properties from their list of registered approved hotels.

Authorities accused of inaction over illegal conversion of hotels

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008

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