By Peter Stevenson
The liberalisation of flights from Moscow and St Petersburg to Larnaca airport is breathing new life into the Famagusta district according to Ayia Napa Mayor Yiannis Karousos.
He called on the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) to make the necessary arrangements to remove any obstacles to freeing up more flights during the winter period.
“Due to the government’s coordinated actions, one of our demands has been met,” Karousous said in reference to the deal signed by Cyprus and Russia last month to liberalise flights.
“Larnaca airport had been closed off from winter flights from Moscow and St Petersburg which had been the most significant hurdle faced in extending the winter season but thankfully that no longer exists,” he said.
Karousos added that he estimated this action could see around 60,000 more Russian tourists initially travel to Cyprus and that number could eventually grow up to 200,000.
Ayia Napa’s mayor said that the CTO needed to overcome any obstacles regarding the beginning of winter flights as soon as possible.
“The window of opportunity that exists today, especially because of geopolitical developments in neighbouring and competing countries, such as Egypt, Syria and Turkey should not be missed,” he said.
On the other side of the island, the head of Paphos’ Hoteliers’ union PASYXE, Themis Phillipides said hotels in Paphos went through their worst ever year in 2013. He said the situation was getting worse and would continue to worsen while flights from Russia did not fly to Paphos airport.
“Efforts are being made by the government, the relevant ministry and other ministries to clarify exactly what is happening with the liberalisation of flights,” he said.
Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos has informed PASYXE that once flights are fully liberalised they will take place from both Larnaca and Paphos airports,” he said.
Phillipides added that PASYXE’s efforts would now concentrate on the winter season next year and to a certain extent on March 2014, following promises they had received from Mitsopoulos regarding the liberalisation of flights from Russia.
He said that for Paphos to recover and reach previous levels of tourist arrivals and income, flights would need to be increased.
“Without flights nothing is possible,” he said, adding “but what we must do is create the conditions within the district so anyone who comes to Paphos for holidays has a great time and has a choice of various activities,” he said.
Phillipides went on to say that competition played a big part during the winter season, with tourists choosing other destinations which offer cheaper deals.
He said it was important that Cyprus was advertised abroad as a tourist destination and also that an infrastructure be created so that tourists could enjoy the advantages Paphos had over other destinations.
“It is easy to promote the summer period but not so easy for the winter season,” he said. The CTO said last month that it predicts a 25 per cent increase in Russian tourists, with 800,000 expected in 2014 following the agreement between the two countries to liberalise flights.