TIMESHARE touts in Paphos are being forced to defend their reputation after a number of reported instances involving violence towards the general public.
“I told this chap I wasn’t interested in buying timeshare in Paphos, but he wouldn’t leave me alone,” one man told the Sunday Mail. “He pushed me from behind so that I tripped up. I’m retired and the whole experience was very frightening.”
Timeshare or holiday ownership can either mean a form of part “ownership” of a property or the legal right to use a particular property, depending on the terms dictated in the contract. Most touts approach holidaymakers and use lottery cards – on which everyone is a winner – to entice people. They then take them to a specified place to collect their so-called ‘prize’ and get them involved in the property presentations.
Established holiday ownership companies in Paphos include Karoushi, Leptos and Panareti, but they don’t necessarily use touts on the street. Leptos, for example, sell their holiday ownership internally.
One woman who wished to remain anonymous contacted the newspaper on behalf of her friends who were recently assaulted by a Paphos tout.
“Two of my friends, who are both pensioners in their sixties, were visiting the island for the first time recently. In their last week they were approached by a timeshare tout,” she said. “They clearly indicated they were not interested, but the tout insisted on pestering them again. He was British.
“He followed them across the road and assaulted one of my friends by kicking him from behind twice and the tout took a swipe at him knocking his glasses off.”
The victim and his wife went to Paphos police, who were “extremely helpful” and drove them around to try and identify their assailant. But the man was not to be found.
“This is a disgraceful memory for them to take home. They are spoiling it for everyone.”
Aggressive timeshare touts were recently reported to be hassling guests inside top-class hotels along the Paphos seafront in a desperate attempt to drum up new business.
“We’ve had numerous complaints from hotel guests and visitors to Paphos who said they would never come back,” said Nassos Hadjigeorgiou, the tourist manager of the Paphos regional board of tourism recently.
One Paphos tout, Peter (not his real name) told the Sunday Mail: “I know a few people who will do whatever it takes, as we have targets to meet. I wouldn’t ever be violent; for one I don’t agree with strong-arm tactics, and also it’s not going to get people to go to the presentations, is it?”
Peter admits to having seen guys “getting a bit verbal before“, but has never witnessed actual violence.
“If these stories of old people being assaulted are true, I think it stinks,” he said.”It’s just going to make the job harder for the rest of us, and we all have to earn a living. I think if there are reps on the streets behaving that way, they should be forced to go home.”
Brendan Surgenor, CEO of a Paphos-based company, CALSK investments, specialising in holiday ownership said: “It’s disgusting that occurrences such as these happen, and then we all get lumped in together.”
Surgenor has a 20-year history in the timeshare industry, including in Greece, and has been operating in Paphos for four years as the CEO of a company involved in holiday ownership
“My OPCs – off property canvassers – all wear CALSK t-shirts and badges to identify them,” he said. “I believe that this is as it should be. The operatives shouldn’t have anything to hide and must behave in a proper fashion.”
Surgenor believes ‘timeshare’ to be an outdated term, and now refers to the practice as holiday ownership.
Countries such as Spain, the Canary Islands and Malta are policed and controlled, and Surgenor believes this approach is more professional.
“To be honest, I sacked a couple of my operators earlier in the year because they didn’t meet my standards. I don’t tolerate any of them to be aggressive, and most have more than a decade in this line of work, so they are experienced in dealing with the public.”
Surgenor pointed out that if would-be touts appear reluctant to wear an identity badge, it would lead him to believe they may have something to hide.
“I’m trying to clean up our image, and as we take one step forwards, terrible incidents such as these see us take six steps back.”
Surgenor says he wants to try and ‘police the trade, in any way I can’ and emphasised that there is now an agreement in place between most of the holiday ownership companies in Paphos, which sees bad operators put on the plane home, never to work on the island again.
A spokesman for the Cyprus police said that all cases of assault are taken very seriously, adding that,”we will get rid of these people from Paphos. They are causing many problems, and some of them have been very aggressive in the past. It ‘s giving Paphos a bad reputation with the visitors, and these touts must remember they are not above the law.”
Some officials have complained that there was a problem of inadequate numbers of police officers available in Paphos to help stamp out touting.
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2009