By Bejay Browne
A small Paphos-based company has signed an agreement with a Chinese outfit based in Shanghai to launch direct flights to the island.
The agreement was signed between New Anesis Travel & Tours and Zhongjia Chenfei General Aviation.
Under its provisions, direct flights from Shanghai will be launched in March 2016.
Company owner Michael Michael, who has 23 years’ experience in the tourism industry, told the Cyprus Mail that the deal had come about after years of friendship and respect had been forged.
“I studied Kung Fu for many years which took me to China and for a long time I have wanted to be instrumental in starting direct flights between the two countries.”
Michael admits that he only operates a small company, which until now has been offering mostly excursions, day trips and safari outings, but the size of the company is irrelevant for the Chinese, as it comes down to respect and trust.
“This has come about from personal friendships and connections. The Chinese study well before they decide to do something, and they came to us. This is because I understand their culture and respect it; respect counts very much,” he said.
Michael said that in turn, he expects that other Cypriots working with the Chinese will do so by respecting Chinese culture. He added that this move will also create an opportunity to show the best of real Cypriot hospitality.
“We (company) haven’t dealt with incoming tourist before and there is so much to sort out, including accommodation. The Chinese company have an aviation license to fly to Cyprus and the first groups are being arranged to arrive in March 2016.”
Before Christmas, a group of Chinese journalists will arrive on an ‘inspection’ visit, he said, and will be followed by two other groups including China Central Television, CCTV, in a bid to promote the island.
Three hundred Chinese visitors are scheduled to arrive in March and there will be three flights a week which will mean between 400,000 to 500,000 visitors in the first year, he said. The operation will run all year long and not just during the summer months.
He said: “I can’t say if the flights will be into Paphos or Larnaca, as that is something we are discussing with the government and other officials at the moment. But Paphos was hit very badly by the crisis and I would like to bring more business to Paphos.”
Nasos Hadjigeorgiou, the head of the Paphos regional board of tourism said: “We will welcome any deal or development from huge markets and believe that there is potential there.”
However, he issued a note of caution: “We need to solve the visa issuing procedure in order to enter the market. The Paphos tourism board and hoteliers are happy to support the initiative of Anesis travel and we will arrange a meeting with them in the next few days to discuss the matter.”
A tourism industry insider, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the development may face a number of problems like obtaining so many visas, as the embassy cannot currently process such big numbers in time.
He also noted that hotel rooms would have to be reserved in the next 15 days for summer 2016 to satisfy the projected needs.