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Police in move to get touts out of Paphos

Paphos toutsPAPHOS police have issued special hotlines where locals and tourists can anonymously report public nuisances such as touts, bad drivers and noise pollution.

Nassos Hadjigeorgiou, the tourist manager of the Paphos regional board of tourism said he had promised months ago to “fight to clear our streets”, a promise that was now being fulfilled.

“It was our initiative to introduce hotlines where the members of the public can call up anonymously if they wish and report any instances of touting, traffic problems and noise pollution in the main tourist areas, which are mostly in Kato Paphos,” he said.

Callers will be able to report all three types of incident and according to Hadjigeorgiou, the police will respond immediately, sending officers to investigate.

“The whole idea is to ensure that Paphos keeps its reputation as a low crime and high security area. I know of so many complaints by visitors to Paphos, who have been hassled by touts trying to sell them timeshare and other packages, and in some instances they have been verbally abused by these people. This is terrible for the image of Paphos and some of these people will never come back again,” he said.

The tourist board manager said that his department had joined forces with the municipality and other concerned bodies and approached the police for help. He said their response had been positive and they issued two new phone numbers in addition to the emergency number 199.

Hadjigeorgiou said that callers should request to speak with the officer on duty to lodge their complaint and that it would be dealt with swiftly.

“We don’t want to frighten people by announcing these numbers, we just want to ensure that any problems we may be having are dealt with before they get out of hand and we need to get rid of the headache of timeshare touts bothering people on our streets,” he said.

In addition, the tourism board has issued a circular with the relevant information and contact number to all of the restaurants and bars in the tourist area, the Paphos chamber of commerce, which has over 500 members, hoteliers and travel agents. They have also placed announcements in the local press.

“We need to raise awareness of these numbers and hopefully we will be able to completely clear the area of touts,” said Hadjigeorgiou.

He said that complaints he was aware of ranged from people being bothered to holidaymakers being sworn at, and derisive comments made about their race, when they had not shown an interest in the touts.

“The problem of touting is most prevalent in Paphos because we have many holidaymakers here who fit the criteria of a lot of these companies.”

According to Hadjigeorgiou, companies operating in Paphos target the 35-60 year old age group who are married, holidaying in Paphos and who have a credit card.

“These still tend to be the British market, but not exclusively,” he said.

The tourism manager pointed out that he is not opposed to timeshare as a concept, but added that most of the companies operating in the tourist area of Paphos are doing so illegally.

“We want to stop selling in the streets and also the selling non-licensed accommodation, which most of these offers are,” he said.

The tourism manager added that these companies are ‘becoming more organised,’ one has even opened a shop just behind the shops on the sea front in Kato Paphos.

“They are trying to grab people from the street and hustle them into their office to sign them up.” He said that Paphos police are now aiming to get other governmental departments involved.

“The social security and labour offices need to be involved now. Are these people employed or self-employed,’ he questioned,” and are they paying VAT on any transactions that are being made.”

The hotline numbers are: 199, 26806060 and 26806049