AVIATION: Connectivity remains at very high levels
Transport, Communications and Works Minister Marios Demetriades told the Financial Mirror in an interview that his office now has a say in a very big part of the real economy, as it includes aviation, shipping, public transport, telecoms, the post and public works.
With these sectors evolving themselves, the Ministry could not stay out of this cycle and internal restructuring is taking place there as well, in line with the general reform of the greater public sector.
“It is time to act!” he said on several occasions, calling for all stakeholders to take advantage of the opportunities that arise to make Cyprus more competitive.
With the tourist season just started, Demetriades believes that air connectivity in Cyprus is now better, with more capacity available and airlines entering the market, refuting suggestions that the island would be isolated after the demise of national carrier Cyprus Airways.
On the other hand, the Ministry has commissioned a study that will overhaul the maritime industry, because he is confident that with the right incentives and Cyprus shipping finding its own niche, the sector will flourish again and contribute significantly to the recovery of the economy.
And reforms are not limited to just shipping and aviation, as the postal service will gain autonomy and the public transport sector will see novelties that were long overdue, helping to improve transport times, and making travel more efficient.
“Connectivity in Cyprus has been and remains at very high levels. This year, for example, 1.1 mln seats have gone and 1.2 mln have been added. So, overall, there are many more seats added than what has left. New destinations have also been added, for example to Germany and Italy, and the frequency of some other routes has increased, for example to Israel, and I believe this will increase even further.
“From the routes that used to take place, all destinations have been covered. Connectivity remains at very high levels, and our aim is to increase that as much as possible. As a Ministry, in reality we do three things – the first is to implement as fast as possible the ‘open skies policy’. We offer the various rights we have with third countries, as well as some traffic rights after the suspension of Cyprus Airways, and routes that had not been operated for many years, especially to the Middle East. We traffic will also increase. The second thing we do is to try to keep the cost at low levels, as regards fees at the airports. We have introduced a new incentive scheme which is much better than the previous one because it not only covers new routes, but it also rewards companies that increase the number of passengers on existing routes. We have started now discussion with the airports operator Hermes to find a way to decrease the cost of the passenger taxes. These discussion will take a number of months and maybe necessitate some changes for the concession. The third thing we are doing is as the Civil Aviation Authority we encourage the maximum number of companies and accommodate as many companies as possible to come and base their operations in Cyprus. For all these there we are in close cooperation with Hermes. I had a meeting with the board of directors and shareholders of Hermes a couple of months ago and we agreed that we will form a steering committee to find ways to increase connectivity in Cyprus.
“About tourism, it’s a catch 22, chicken-and-egg. It is not only necessary to put on new destinations and new routes. What we need to do is to support those routes and this is where the role of the Ministry of Commerce and Tourism and the CTO come in. We need to support more actively the new routes that we introduce. And this is something that we plan to do, as a government, and we need to make changes in the ways we promote tourism as well.”
Although the number of flights from Heathrow is increasing, prices are still not coming down. Will they ever, we asked the Minister.
“Obviously the more competition we have, the lower prices we shall have. This is the basic rule of the market. Now, what we are doing in agreement with Hermes, is monitoring the prices, just to see the impact of prices and how prices compare with last year. Regarding whether prices will fall or whether they should fall, basically we should give