Waiting for Brighter, Safer and Happier Days
September 01, 2021
Farah Shammas, Managing Director at St Raphael Resort and Marina in Limassol, is hopeful that the tourism sector will rebound in 2022 but she recognizes that the top priority today must be to protect people’s health, even if that means maintaining and extending restrictions on visitors and locals alike. By Marios Ioannou | Photo by Taspho
Tourism is arguably the sector on which the COVID-19 pandemic has had the greatest impact. How has it affected on St Raphael Resort and Marina and what are your expectations for the rest of 2021?
The impact has been huge and quite devastating but we are surviving and taking on the challenge. However hard our industry has been hit, we will get through this and we look forward to better days, hopefully in 2022. It is fair to say that we never expected to be still in the midst of the pandemic as badly as we are in August 2021 but, despite all the adversity, we are open and managing. The Government’s support has also been a big help.
It has been suggested that certain hotels and restaurants could restrict entry to those who are fully vaccinated. What is the impact of the present situation on hoteliers and what action would you advise the Government to take?
Unfortunately, there are still people who do not take the pandemic seriously enough and are still in an individualistic mindset. If there is one thing that COVID-19 has taught us, it’s that we are all part of something much bigger. Whether we like it or not, we must all do our bit for the wider good. We have a civic duty to protect the more vulnerable, and this means vaccinations, social distancing, following protocols and acting responsibly. The Government has really done a very good job and although the number of new cases remains high in Cyprus, we are testing more than most countries. Unfortunately, when people don’t stick to the rules, there is no choice and the Government will have to – and should – impose stricter measures, as it has done before with restaurants and weddings.
Personally, I believe the most important thing is to keep our country afloat, safe and functioning so, unfortunately, if that means keeping the airports closed and restricted to many countries, then this is what we must do in order to stop the spread of the virus. If we must close clubs and bars, so be it. It appears that the younger generation are neither being vaccinated nor adhering to social distancing and, therefore, stricter measures must be in place. Even if tourism has to continue to suffer, as least the hotels can open and restaurants can welcome locals, weddings can take place and our kids can go to school. The doctors and we ourselves must do all we can to protect our fellow citizens. The time for selfishness – if there ever was one – has passed.
Can you describe the profile of the visitors to St Raphael Resort?
Our clients are from all over the world but, as in every Limassol hotel, they are mainly of Russian, British and Cypriot origin. The length of stay differs but averages around one week. We are a five-star hotel and have an array of room and suite categories at varying rates, so we attract people from the upper middle class to Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWIs).
The Tower is the new luxury residential building at St Raphael Resort. What is the profile of the owners and how many apartments have been sold? Has the termination of the Cyprus Investment Programme affected sales?
I cannot divulge information about the owners in The Tower but I can say that, of the 18 apartments, 16 were sold prior to completion (some of them even re-sold) and the owners (lessees) bought them for various reasons: some to live there, others wanting a holiday home and others as an investment. The Cyprus Investment Programme ended after we had completed The Tower and this has certainly affected property sales on the island but so has the pandemic – especially given the difficulty for potential buyers to travel to Cyprus and view properties.
What can you tell us about the prices of The Tower apartments?
Only the Penthouse and one luxury three-bedroom apartment on the 9th floor remain unsold and we can arrange VIP viewings for both with prices on request.
What are your plans as a Group? Are you considering any other investments in Cyprus?
We were the first to invest in the island’s first private marina back in the early ’80s and have recently expanded our project with The Tower. We love investing in Cyprus! However, for the moment, we are concentrating on making sure our business rides out this pandemic and we are not expanding further. We also have hotels in the UK, a Construction Company (C.A.T. Group) and many other projects abroad. Our plan as a Group is to promote each investment so that it can thrive in its own right and, at St Raphael Resort and Marina, we are doing just that. We look forward to brighter, safer and happier days but, in the meantime, we are grateful for all we have – our team and staff – and I hope that, collectively, everyone will support one another until we get to the end of this particular period of time.