Roman conference center long in disuse, but 'conferencing' goes on

By , the Monitor's Middle East correspondent.

The seaside amphitheater at Curium on the southern shore of Cyprus was one of the "conferencing" facilities of ancient times. In fact, according to Hazel Thruston ("The Traveler's Guide to Cyprus"), American archaeologists who excavated the site almost 30 years ago found what they believe to have been a "civic reception center" for Roman VIPs circa AD 300 .

A photo of the well-restored Curium facilities is used in AD 1981 to attract potential conference holders to the island. The stone amphitheater as a seminar spot is not the selling point today, but rather is one of the "fringes" of conducting a conference on the island. Says the Cyprus Tourism Organization: "After a tough day of debate, relaxation and refreshment can mean a solitary walk along an empty beach or exploring a 2,000-year-old archaeological site."

one may add to those scuba diving, snow skiing, the multilingual population, and any of the other tourist attractions of Cyprus. In 1980, 80 major conferences, attracting 4,000 delegates, were held on the island -- everything from the "Second Conference of the Parliamentary Subcommittee for Research on Controlling the Mediterranean Pollution" to "International Congress on the Theater to the Third World." Larnaca, Limassol, and Paphos are for conferences by the sea. Nicosia is in the center of the island, and Troodos is atop the mountain range.

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CTO officials are careful not to oversell their island, saying only that it "makes the perfect venue for the middle-size conference." But they also make the dramatic claim that being situated at the eastern end of the Mediterranean positions Cyprus at "the center of the world of business . . . midway between the New World and Japan . . . between the thriving economies of the Arab world and the business-hungry countries of Western Europe."

Conferences also help to keep all of the new Cypriot hotels busy during the off season (November to March). An economic development plan states, "Owing to the need to save capital resources, the increase in the contribution of the tourist sector must come mainly from increased productivity of the sector. Efforts will be made to increase the occupancy of the existing hotel and tourist units through a more balanced seasonal distribution of the tourist traffic."

CTO has a special conference division with an officer in charge of arranging facilities for foreign businessmen. He can be contacted through the Cyprus Tourism Organization, PO Box 4535, Nicosia, Cyprus; Telephone (021) 43374, Telex 2165 Nicosia.

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