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Cyprus

‘Encouraging signs’ for tourism

Cyprus Airways staff demonstrating outside the finance ministry yesterday (Photo: Christos Theodorides)

By Jean Christou

If the decline in tourist arrivals from Russia holds steady at the expected 25 per cent for 2015, the numbers can be made up from elsewhere, Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) chief Angelos Loizou said on Tuesday.

Loizou was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Advisory Committee for the Monitoring and Coordination of Tourism Affairs at the Filoxenia in Nicosia, which was discussing the strategic plan for 2015. Discussions were held with all stakeholders, Loizou said.

He said 2014 results had been satisfactory “but could have been better”. Arrivals last year numbered 2.44 million, an increase of 1.5 per cent over 2013.

“There are discouraging messages but there are also encouraging signs,” Loizou said, adding that an increase has been noticed in the second half of last year in numbers from the UK and Germany, two traditional markets which had been on the decline in recent years. The upward trend from both markets looked set to continue, Loizou.

But the big challenge would be the projected reduction from Russia. In 2014, Russian arrivals had grown 5 per cent over 2013 but the forecast for 2015 was a 25 per cent drop, the CTO chief said. Western sanctions on Moscow and the decline in the rouble have affected the number of Russians expected to travel this year.

Loizou said if the reduction in the Russian market holds at 25 per cent it could be made up from other countries but if the reduction was higher than the replacement figure it would be a problem for the sector.

Tuesday’s meeting also discussed the impact from the closure of Cyprus Airways.

“As we have been informed by the representatives of Hermes [Airports] but also from travel agents, it seems the gap in airline seats has been covered,” Loizou said. However there was a problem covering some countries that were using Cyprus Airways as the carrier for their tourist packages and arrangements needed to be made to cover this gap, he said.

Former Cyprus Airways Chairman Tony Antoniou, who was asked by reporters to comment on the intention of the government to create a new airline, said this would be a move in the right direction.

“I do not know exactly what the government has in mind. I know it cannot participate financially, and should not in my view, but there are ways that it could persuade or attract Cypriot and foreign investors,” he said.

Antoniou said everyone at Tuesday’s meeting had agreed that there was a need for an exclusively Cypriot carrier. “At the same time we also agreed that the efforts of other airlines to fill the gap is welcome.”

Former Cyprus Airways employees staged a new protest outside the finance ministry on Tuesday.

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