A ferry link between mainland Greece and Cyprus is expected to be operational by next summer while the government is mulling over similar agreements with other neighbouring countries, MPs heard on Tuesday.
According to deputy minister for shipping, Natasa Pilides, who was at the House energy, trade, industry and tourism committee, the feasibility study for the Cyprus-Greece ferry link has been completed while approval for the state subsidy is pending.
It was not established which port in Greece mainland would be the connection point.
After the green light for the subsidy is given, a tender competition will be announced to find the most suitable business to assume the project. Pilides said the state would subsidise the connection but not the commercial aspects of running the business.
The goal is to have the connection established before the next summer season in 2020.
Pilides said the ferry fare will be cheaper than the airfare. Limassol port will most probably be the port from where the 30-hour ferry trip to Greece will begin, while there are thoughts for an intermediate stop, such as Rhodes.
The route will be carried out once per week between May and September and once every fortnight during the winter.
According to House president Demetris Syllouris Egypt has expressed interest in a ferry connection between Cyprus and Alexandria.
Deputy minister for tourism, Savvas Perdios said that the ferry connection with Greece was very important and that there was room for links with other countries such as Israel, Lebanon and Egypt.
“If these efforts bear fruit, the ministry plans to contribute with its own efforts as regards joint packages with neighbouring countries,” Perdios said.
As regards tourist arrivals so far, according to Perdios there has been a one per cent reduction in arrivals but also in revenue due to Brexit uncertainty, and the loss of air seats from Germany. Although the Russian market is at the same level as last year, there could be problems there too due to the rapid increase of competition from Turkey. Tourism revenues could drop by five per cent this year, he said.
Perdios said that things were also expected to be difficult next year and for that reason his ministry was taking measures by trying to attract more markets and is also working on common programmes with other countries.
MPs welcomed progress on the ferry link with Greece arguing that Cypriots cannot just rely on air travel.