THE CYPRUS Tourism Organisation (CTO) yesterday denied a report in the British press that it had not officially approached the budget airline Ryanair to convince them to fly to Cyprus.
“I don’t know why Ryanair is not flying to Cyprus at the moment, but it is certainly not because we have not been in contact“, CTO Director of Tourism Lefkos Phylactides said.
Phylactides added: “We are keen to offer as much help and support as we can to any airline, but we are operating under EU restrictions. Perhaps Ryanair wanted something more substantial than what we are allowed to offer.”
OPP Magazine reported that Ryanair was not ruling out flying to Cyprus in 2009, but said it had not yet been officially approached by the country’s tourism authorities to make it a reality. In 2008, Ryanair said it was unwilling to fly to the island until Cyprus’s relatively high landing charges were dropped. Plans to reduce aircraft landing fees were included in the government’s recent announcement of its €300m rescue package targeting the property and tourism sectors.
Bernard Berger, the budget airline’s director of route development, was quoted during a trip to Cyprus in 2008 as saying: “We are a business. You [Cyprus] need us to come here. We don’t need to come to Cyprus. We are doing very well thank you.”
CTO Marketing Director Michalis Metaxas said that contact with Ryanair began two or three years ago “as the result of our own initiative.”
A number of meetings took place over the course of about twelve months, involving detailed discussions with senior government representatives, including the Tourism Minister.
“We listened to their requirements, but these turned out to be prohibitive, and not covered by any EU-approved scheme“, said Metaxas. As a result, these “exploratory meetings” ended about 18 months ago.
The CTO has now finalised its Air Route Development Scheme (ARDS), which was given the green light by the EU in April 2008. The new scheme applies to all European airlines, not just low-cost carriers.
CTO Director General Phoebe Katsouri said at the time: “It’s a start-up scheme for new routes, designed to connect Cyprus with new European destinations.” A crucial aspect of the scheme is that it complies with EU directives and regulations, which ban direct subsidies in the airline industry.
Under the ARDS, airlines can receive market support for between three and five years, in return for which they must commit to year-round flights to Cyprus.
“It’s a joint effort. They will be risking and investing by committing airline capacity at considerable cost to themselves,” Katsouri said. “The CTO will be contributing its marketing efforts to support them. It is economic support, but it translates into market activities“, she added.
Metaxas said that, though now finalised, the ARDS has not yet been formally announced to airlines. “Expressions of interest will be invited from all airlines in around six weeks. Ryanair will be welcome to respond to that invitation.”
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