TIMESHARE touts were out in force in Paphos over the Easter holidays last week doing what they do best: mercilessly hassling tourists to hand over their cash for a holiday ownership scheme.
One victim was Irene Heymore, a retired school teacher from the UK, on holiday in Cyprus for two weeks.
“I was walking with some friends along the sea front in Paphos, when I was approached by a young man trying to get me to take a scratch card. I didn’t want to, but he was insistent,” she said. “He told me that I’d won a prize and would have to go and collect it from his office, but I’m aware that this is how timeshare touts operate and I refused. He kept badgering me and in the end we walked away. The experience was unpleasant and I could see other touts giving the same treatment to other holiday makers.”
For the Paphos regional board of tourism, Irene’s experience is tiresomely familiar.
“I am very sorry to see that even though we have been trying for more than ten years to clear the streets of this phenomenon, we have not managed to do so successfully,” said a member of the board who wished to remain anonymous.
He said despite endless meetings with government departments and other involved bodies, and although the police make some efforts to clear the street of touts, the problem is still there.
“Easter seems to be the time these touts begin operating again for the season and I personally saw at least five touts on the sea front in Kato Paphos when I visited the harbour area over the Easter period,” he said.
The street operators, normally foreigners employed for the season, grab visitors passing by, encouraging them to take a scratch card. They then take the unsuspecting visitors to their offices for a presentation and then try to get them to sign a timeshare agreement.
The official said the tourism board isn’t opposed to holiday ownership schemes as a form of tourism, but that they strongly object to the way in which these schemes are being promoted.
“We have had a lot of complaints about these touts and you only have to look at any of the Internet portals such as Trip Advisor to see the number of complaints about this matter.”
Last year a police hotline was set up to receive complaints on matters including touting.
“We need to have a hotline again this year and more needs to be done by the relevant authorities. This situation has been going on for far too long and we need to clear these operators off the streets of Paphos.”
Tougher fines are one option. At present, fines are just €85 and operator’s supervisors often collect the fines together and pay them in one go.
“It’s worth their while to continue to operate as they do, as they can easily offset the fines against signing up people to their schemes,” said the official.
He also pointed out that by the time any case against a tout comes to court they have often left the country.
The tourism official says requests to impose fines of €500 on touts caught operating on the streets were refused by the government and has called on government departments to check the touts’ employment status, their location of work and so on.