Polis Chrysochous, the smallest town in the Paphos district at the north-west end of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, might not itself have immediate name recognition among international tourists – but the wider area certainly does. They flock to the beaches and nature reserves of the beautiful Paphos peninsula, which is served by a busy airport.
Students of Greek mythology will know it as the place where the goddess of love, Aphrodite, was said to bathe in the tranquil pools of a natural cave nearby. Local mayor Yiotis Papachristofi does not mind if people come to soak up the history, the sun or the sea, or to enjoy the renowned seafood and play golf – as long as they come.
With about 4000 residents, Polis Chrysochous (called simply Polis locally) sits at the centre of Chrysochous Bay, and on the edge of the Akamas peninsula nature reserve. Served by the port of Latchi, its economy has mainly subsided on fishing and agriculture. But it is netting more tourists these days, making hospitality a growing economic contributor.
“Last year we received more tourists [than ever] and we are hoping for even more in the future. The new [tourism] projects coming into our area will bring more people because we need these people to help our economy,” says Mr Papachristofi. “My priority is to make my town more active, to make my town greener, to bring more people and to help convince them to stay longer in my area.”
These projects include two new signature golf courses designed by legends of the sport. With its own 750-metre stretch of beach, a coastal course has been designed by Jack Nicklaus, while a ‘mountain’ course situated 200 metres above sea level is the brainchild of Gary Player. The courses are part of the multimillion-euro Limni project, which will also include a 160-room hotel, sports amenities and nearly 800 residential units.
The municipality already has a hotel that the mayor calls “the best in Cyprus”, the five-star Anassa luxury spa hotel. But more tourist accommodation, infrastructure and services are needed – and foreign investors have a role to play in solving these constraints. The quiet-spoken mayor is making the international rounds to shout about the opportunities.
“I sell my town to everybody, to invest here. We need them to come, to invest. We invite them to come and see us and we will help them as much as we can,” he says.
Cutting red tape
Difficulty in getting licences for new developments has been a barrier to bringing in investment in tourism projects in Polis, something Mr Papachristofi hopes will be relaxed through new government legislation by 2019. “We hope that next year we will solve this problem with the government, to give us the opportunity for the tourist investors to come into our area and invest, because the area is very beautiful. I invite them to come, and I promise to help them the best we can to make these projects happen,” he says.
He will also have to navigate heated negotiations with environmental groups that are concerned about possible overdevelopment and infringement of protected natural areas. And the European Commission (EC) is also watching closely. Most of the Akamas peninsula is in the Natura 2000 network, an EU-wide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive.
The EC had already put the brakes on the Limni project following a caution from the EU in 2015 and a request for an environmental impact study to be commissioned. The subsequent report was welcomed by the EC but it raised continued conservation concerns it would like to see addressed.
Mr Papachristofi says the project is moving ahead and he is looking forward to the visitors, jobs and income it will generate. He hopes it will put his town on the global tourism map – in the meantime, he is extending invitations to any interested investors.
“I think when they come, they will like it – and I hope in the future that they will invest in my town,” he says.