AVI­A­TION: Con­nec­tiv­ity re­mains at very high lev­els

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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