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Airlines say Cyprus is 100 per cent more expensive than other destinations.

Byline: Bejay Browne

CYPRUS is 100 per cent more expensive than other comparable destinations in Europe, according to IACA, International Air Carrier Association.

Representatives of IACA were in Paphos this week to meet with the representatives of the aviation and tourism industry, and urged them to take concrete steps to encourage airlines to return to Cyprus.

The Chairman of the Charges Committee, Roland Taylor said that when IACA had its first meeting with officials in Cyprus in 2007, it warned that tourism on the island was stagnant, and that unless they took urgent action to put long term measures in place, numbers would drop further.

" We were laughed at; and now you can see the results," he said.

According to IACA, tour operators are already taking 15-20 per cent less bookings for Cyprus, whereas generally Europe has witnessed only a 10 per cent decrease.

IACA represents 34 leisure airlines, and 26 per cent of the airline market share in Cyprus.

Taylor said: "It takes at least one or two years to try and put strategies in place, and we can see that overall this year's tourism in Cyprus is already down by more than ten per cent. Visitors from the UK are down by more than 20 per cent."

IACA is still concerned by excessive airport charges and a 'general lack of effort to attract tourists to Cyprus'.

"The meeting was astonishing in that representatives of the ministries concerned, said they stood by their previous decisions, and are still not taking our suggestions on board .If they aren't interested in turning around the downward trend, obviously the situation will not improve," said Luc Geens Manager of IACA ground operations."

IACA confirmed that one of the issues raised was the, 'unacceptable increase of 34 per cent in airport charges at Larnaca and Paphos airports, which has a knock on effect in that it makes, Cyprus up to 115 per cent more expensive than other competitor destinations.

"The fees being charged by Cyprus airports are ridiculously high, and they need to be at least at a normal level. For example, the luxury airports of Sharm el Sheikh, and those in Turkey give excellent service, the airports are very modern, and yet they charge 70-80 per cent less than Cyprus," said Taylor.

IACA also voiced concerns over concession fees on Hermes revenues, the airports controllers, which enable the government to take 33 per cent, or more than e1/429 million in revenue earned from airlines without any financial risk or assurances to reinvest into airport infrastructure.

" Cyprus needs long term planning, long term incentives, realistic pricing, and to remove the ridiculous 33 per cent, which goes to the government. We don't experience this in any other of the destinations in Europe," Taylor said.

The organisation also brought up ongoing problems such as, passenger congestion at Larnaca airport, which is highlighted during peak times, due to the small size of the terminal, in comparison with numbers of arrivals.

"We are ignored by ministers and it's very annoying. We follow up meetings with letters, but they're ignored as well. It's very frustrating. Some people in Cyprus are of good will, but if issues are ignored, no progress will ever be made," said Geens. He said IACA made a similar presentation to Cyprus two years ago, and it again fell on deaf ears.

According to IACA, leading airlines and tour operators' work together, and if they can fly to countries, which are nearer, and at half the cost, then that is what they will do.

Geens

IACA believe its too late to repair the damage which has already been done to the tourism industry in Cyprus, and claim it will take at least two years of dedicated work to keep arrival numbers as they are.

"Growth needs to be ensured, and the attitude here is a real tragedy. Cyprus has been left to die for the last four or five years. Look at Larnaca; the beach is a mess and it's filthy. The old town is quaint, but on the whole, it could all be so much better. Look at other cities with beaches, Barcelona for example is buzzing and busy. The officials here have a long way to go," said Taylor.

Copyright Cyprus Mail 2009

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Mar 27, 2009
Words:718
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