By Constantinos Psillides
MEMBERS of the House Committee on Trade and Industry urged the government yesterday to extend the open skies policy to include – among others – former Soviet countries and China, so as to further boost the tourist industry.
Cyprus has just agreed an open skies policy with Russia – for the winter season – and Ukraine, which is hoped will lead to an increase in arrivals of tourists arriving from those two countries.
According to the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), 500,000 to 600,000 Russian tourists arrived in Cyprus in 2013, a number they expect to increase by the end of the year.
According to CTO chief Alecos Orountiotis, “an open skies policy is an international agreement where two or more nations agree to allow unrestricted flight and landing rights to one another. It is an international agreement. It helps build friendship and trust between countries and will help the tourist industry in Cyprus”.
Orountiotis added that CTO expected 2014 to be a better year for tourism than 2013.
Committee chairman, DISY MP, Lefteris Christoforou said it had been unacceptable for Cyprus to operate under a different set of rules than neighbouring countries when it came to open skies. He said many of these countries had more than doubled their tourism revenue in recent years.
“Every tourist that comes to the island in these dire financial times is a fresh breath for the economy. This is a golden opportunity to take advantage of our country’s tourist capabilities and strengthen our economy”, he added.
Christoforou also said that Cyprus needed to open up more consulates and embassies around the world, to further facilitate the influx of tourists.
According to AKEL MP Costas Costa, 20 travel agents from China had already refused to travel to Cyprus, citing the complexity of acquiring a visa to visit the island.
EDEK MP George Varnava cited Greece as an example, saying that the measures the country took to boost its tourist industry in the wake of its financial meltdown, had resulted in it doubling its tourist revenue.