An online site promoting Northern Cyprus describes the area as being ‘A corner of earth touched by heaven’. In describing the locals the effusive copy tells us that the ‘Cypriot people are always cheerful, calm and hospitable’. Sounds inviting doesn’t it? ....Of course it is, especially for those folk currently entombed in rain soaked Britain who haven’t seen the sun for months and who ache to go on holiday.
Fine.. I have no problem with that except that one has always got to counter the ‘cute copy’ used by these travel people and remind ourselves occasionally that this ‘corner of earth’ was also touched by bloodshed after the illegal invasion by the Turkish army in 1974, and one has to seriously doubt if there is to be found a genuinely ‘cheerful, calm, and hospitable Cypriot currently living in the occupied North, after they had their homes and businesses taken from them by the occupying forces.
But leaving that aside for the moment, one must stop and wonder at what tourists expect and receive from a holiday in the north, yes... they have fine hotels the majority having been taken from their rightful owners and turned over to Turkish migrants to run. No doubt the Turkish government told these migrants that they were going to go and live in a ‘corner of the earth touched by heaven’ and so they were sent over to the Occupied North to populate and run the north as part of the Turkish state.
This is where we now come to several difficulties as these probably well meaning family folk and workers did indeed work hard to make a livelihood they renovated the hotels and so set themselves up as hoteliers.
The key here is no one recognises within the EU the illegal state of “Northern Cyprus” so tourists finding themselves attracted to cheaper prices than in southern Cyprus (the legally owned part of the island) can and do find themselves in trouble. The tragic case last year of the Englishwoman who stayed with her partner at a five star hotel only to die there after drinking from a water bottle containing cleaning fluid, left there by accident on a bedside table by the maid after she had cleaned the couples room.
A terrible thing to happen in this corner of earth and her partner will now have no end of trouble if he tries to pursue for compensation against the management of the hotel.
The legitimate and mercifully professional part of this island has strict hotel training systems in place which would disallow the potential for this sort of accident occurring. The legitimate Cyprus may well be a bit more expensive than the illegally occupied North but here you do have rights and are fully covered by EU laws.
Much has been said and done about the ‘Cyprus Problem’ what we should be doing is ensuring our tourists are safe no matter where they holiday on this island, we should continue to find ways to offer inclusivity towards the Turkish Cypriots, something we are doing from this side of the island for many years now by organising day trips for visitors to the occupied north under the legal shield the UN via the Green Line Agreement. What we don’t want is for the northern corner ‘touched by heaven’ to become a danger death zone for foreign tourists, here-we cannot afford to have headlines in the Daily Mail newspaper that scream ‘Mother dies on a five star holiday to Cyprus’.
For many tourists Cyprus is Cyprus -whether it’s Northern or Southern, most don’t actually care about what happened 38 years ago that caused this separation of the country, they see the prices and go.yes it’s hot there and they have great beaches... book it!
Unless we can all work together under EU legality in tourism to better our products and make safe our visitors then we will continue to receive fallout from the somewhat lack lustre capabilities currently being promoted within that ‘corner of earth touched by heaven’.
Petros Mavros is a Tourism Business Consultant, Avantless LTD – Pafos Cyprus