Tourism industry job losses hit 8,000
Taken from this week's issue
The drastically reduced employment level in the key industry was revealed by the head of the Cyprus Turkish Hoteliers’ Union, Dimağ Cağıner, and confirmed to Cyprus Today by Labour and Social Security Ministry undersecretary Erçin Tekakpınar.
Speaking to this newspaper at his offices in Lefkoşa on Tuesday, Mr Tekakpınar said: “In July 2019, the tourism sector was officially employing around 19,000 to 20,000 people but that has now reduced to around 11,000, which shows the damage done to it.”
Mr Tekakpınar emphasised, however, that the economic situation in the country as a whole was “not that bad”, saying: “It is true that many businesses closed during the pandemic and there is a common perception that they will not reopen, but that does not reflect reality. Many of them reopened with the lifting of restrictions and are still providing services.
“Unfortunately, it is not possible to accurately determine the total number of unemployed people in the TRNC but I can assure your readers that the number is lower than often thought, with fewer than 800 citizens having registered for unemployment benefits this season.”
Mr Tekakpınar said that his ministry has so far provided a total of 220 million TL in support for those affected by the downturn, most of whom had been employed in the tourism sector.
“We paid 2,000TL each month for registered workers during April, May and June and will make such payments again in September and October,” he said.
“If necessary, we can continue making monthly support payments until the end of this year.”
Referring to foreign national workers and employers living in the TRNC, Mr Tekakpınar said that his ministry makes payments to them that are equal to those of Turkish Cypriots.
“A distinction between the nationality of registered workers is not a matter for discussion,” he said. “We support all such workers equally, irrespective of their country of origin.”
Meanwhile Chateau Lambousa Hotel owner John Aziz Kent has launched a scathing attack on the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Speaking exclusively to this paper on Thursday, Mr Kent, 86, said: “Politicians have been focused on the presidential election and seem to have overlooked problems that people are experiencing due to Covid-19.
“They should stop fighting each other and focus on health problems that are occurring in the country.
“Both our national economy and a key sector, tourism, are suffering due to a lack of radical decisions by the authorities.”
Referring to the ending of the lockdown period in the country earlier this year, Mr Kent added: “The reopening period was unsuccessful because the authorities were unprepared. They had no preparations in place for comprehensive testing or for pandemic centres and we did not even have a pandemic hospital.
“Thanks to Turkey, however, the immediate damage was not as extensive as it could have been although both the tourism and education sectors are in a bad state.
“There are qualified people in the country who can make the necessary radical decisions and they should act now.”