It's difficult to understand just why systems here in Cyprus are underperforming so dramatically.
On Sunday, I visited friends staying at a leading hotel here in Limassol. The service was astonishingly bad: one waiter could simply not bring himself to serve three tables with a total of seven people properly.
I had to get up and order at the bar after the fellow didn't show up at our table after ten minutes. That's one of three tables occupied in a hotel pool bar.
And I had to get up and request the bill, because instead of working he was on his phone, sitting behind the bar.
Garbage was strewn on the seafront, which the hotel had appropriated for its sunbeds. But the hotel staff couldn't be bothered to clean it, even though it came from its own catering service.
Did my guests notice this? Of course they did. They also said this would never happen in Turkey.
Yesterday we used our 1 SMS to visit Molos. Never mind the crowd: I can understand the crowd.
What I can't understand is the garbage. We walked from Castle Square down to Ayios Andreas Street. There was garbage everywhere.
Why are we spending millions renovating the old town of Limassol if we can't collect and dispose of garbage properly?
We later tried to get drinks at a coffee stand on Molos. There were four people working the stand, yet they could not properly pour and serve two orange juices and a filter coffee, let alone hygienically.
No masks, no gloves, no nothing. The cups were not even properly filled to the correct level.
I honestly don't understand it. We keep making these absurd strategies to increase tourism inflows and spend, and yet the tourism experience is ... abysmal. Expensive and abysmal.
How can four people behind a bench not pour orange juice into a plastic cup properly? How can a waiter not serve 3 tables properly? How can a hotel not clean up garbage in its own territory?
A few months ago, a client asked me to define some innovative services for the hotel sector in Cyprus. I responded that I have been consulting and training on these same innovative services for years now, and no one is implementing them.
We don't need innovation at this stage. We need common sense: a sense of ownership and a system that enables a tourist to feel welcome and secure.
That also means we need to take pride in our culture, heritage and environment. It means we need to respect ourselves as we respect others.
It means we need to stop ripping tourists off and swindling them at every opportunity.
None of this is rocket science. It should be basic principles and values.
Instead, we have the mob. We have the same tired excuses. We have mediocrity which is below mediocrity. We have the same recycled people making the same recycled mistakes.
I doubt government policy is to blame. Whatever criticisms one can bring, government policy for 30 years now has been to improve quality, improve seasonality, improve the product.
Successive governments have poured hundreds of millions into the tourism sector with subsidies, training, promotion, etc.
You can't mandate good service levels. If after 30 years, tourism entrepreneurs don't know how to serve tables on time, pour orange juice or pick up litter, there is no law in the world that can change this.
The fact is that there are stellar tourism investors, managers and entrepreneurs here in Cyprus -- many of them are my friends and clients.
These are people who work night and day for a great guest experience, for continual product development, for high standards. They sacrifice their own time and go more than the extra mile.
And when they aren't working and creating, they are learning, making themselves better at what they do.
But the entire image of the island is ruined by a significant number of people for whom semi-criminal stupidity and neglect appears to be the modus operandi.
We saw it in the Citizenship by Investment video. We see it on Molos or walking in the old town.
After nearly 30 years consulting, I would like to say I have an answer for this. I don't. Any answer I provide is just theory.
Unless we can generate the personal sense of responsibility and ethics, and switch from a culture of easy profit to a culture of investment and systems thinking, no government strategy or 5-year plan is going to solve this.
We might be better off taking Antonis Tritsis' purported solution for public education in Greece (which was never implemented): Reform kindergarten. Then reform first grade (while sustaining reforms in the previous grade). Then reform second grade. And so on all the way up.
Create a real public education system that creates real citizens.
And this is probably where it fails. What political party in Greece or Cyprus wants real citizens?
I wish you all a good week. Χριστός Ανέστη.