The majority of hotels and hundreds of catering establishments were operating without an operating licence at the end of 2018, according to figures presented by auditor general Odysseas Michaelides to the House Watchdog Committee on Thursday.
He said that at the end of 2018 there were 243 hotels and 3600 catering establishments. Of these the operating licence had been renewed for only 59 hotels and 2234 catering establishments — that is 24% and 62% of the total, with the remainder (76% and 38% respectively) failing to satisfy provisions in the law.
This poses potential health and safety risks for clients and employees, he warned.
The main reason for non-renewal of permits were the extensions and other changes to the premises without first securing a planning and building permit.
Of the 26 five star hotels and 58 four star hotels in operation in February this year, only four of the former and nine of the latter had operating permits for 2018. Michaelides said that 19 five star and 43 four star hotels have been operating with a permit since 2009.
Should authorities choose to take legal action against the owners, this would mean court injunctions suspending operation of the businesses, leading to thousands of job losses.
The acting permanent secretary of the deputy tourism ministry Theofanis Tryfonos said the new law which came into force a few months ago on the licensing and classification of hotels and tourist accommodation provided for a five year grace period for them to acquire a permit.
A lot of the bureaucratic procedures that had been examined by the now defunct CTO are no longer needed. The new law created new categories such as boutique hotels and was a golden opportunity for hoteliers to make the best of the time given by the law, he added,
And he said that there was zero tolerance on issues of health and safety with regular inspections carried out two to three times a year.