It is with great pleasure that I have accepted the invitation to address this important Conference on Air transport in Cyprus: Challenges and Opportunities / Importance on Tourism. I welcome all of you to this event, especially those speakers and participants coming from abroad.
I would like, first of all, to extend my congratulations to the Flight Safety Foundation Mediterranean (FSF-MED) for organizing this event on such a current and challenging subject. I would like also to thank the Foundation for its substantial contribution, among others, to Cyprus economy. It is for this reason that the Government supports the Foundation and will continue to do so, since we consider that non-governmental organisations can play an important role and compliment the Government efforts.
The high quality of the Conference is guaranteed, having in mind the topics that will be covered, as well as the names of the speakers and the participants. It will give the opportunity for the exchange of ideas on important matters and contribute to the development of regional cooperation. Air transport, as an international activity, requires the cooperation between states and international and regional organizations.
Living in a very volatile and politically unstable region, cooperation becomes even more important. It is for this reason that the Cyprus government set as one of its priorities to further develop the existing good relations with all our neighbours. We are convinced that Cyprus, as the only country in the region being a member of the European Union and EUROCONTROL, can potentially play a leading role in enhancing cooperation and facilitate the adoption of common standards.
Air transport is an important enabler to achieving economic growth and development. Air transport facilitates integration into the global economy and provides vital connectivity on a national, regional, and international scale. It helps generate trade, promote tourism and create employment opportunities. The Government of the Republic of Cyprus supports aviation-related projects and remains actively engaged in all European and regional projects related to air transport policy and regulation, safety, infrastructure rehabilitation, institutional strengthening and capacity building.
Air transport at both national and international level is an important, but also sensitive area of a country’s economic activity and political development. Especially for the Cypriot economy, the sector is of great importance, as the vast majority of tourist travels take place by air.
The geographical position of Cyprus and its accession to the European Union have created further favourable conditions for the development of aviation in Cyprus. In particular, we can say that aviation in Cyprus has shown healthy growth in recent years. This contributed considerably both to the legal framework that is being implemented within the European Union and to the open air policy implemented by Cyprus in the aviation sector with third countries.
It is worth mentioning that the total passenger traffic at the Cyprus Airports in 2016 recorded an increase of 17.8% over the previous year. In particular, compared with 2015, passenger traffic at Larnaca airport increased by 24.2% and at Paphos airport an increase of 2.5%.
Although Cyprus currently has an overall sufficient connectivity with most aviation markets, could certainly be said that there is much room for improvement, not only with current markets but also with completely new markets. The aviation sector in Cyprus should, therefore, follow the path of growth and change by providing access to key growth markets for airlines and the traveling public.
Therefore, in 2017, the government’s efforts to conclude new or amend existing bilateral aviation agreements will continue, aiming at the full liberalization of air transport with ultimate goal the increasing of the connectivity of Cyprus.
In order to achieve this goal and also to enable Cyprus not only to maintain adequate connectivity but also to improve it, a combination of measures /actions should be part of the package offered to airlines such as:
Flexible legal framework in the form of liberalized bilateral agreements that will allow any interested airline to fly on any market
Grant of fifth freedom traffic rights to each interested airline for each requested route on the basis of reciprocity
Flexible and competitive airport charges
Developing an incentive system for airlines and tour operators
Implementation of the strategic planning of the Cyprus Tourism Organization with regard to the tourist product and its promotion.
A complete package of actions will therefore help us minimize current and any future challenges and allow us to take advantage of any existing capabilities as far as possible and to quickly capitalize on every opportunity that will be presented in the near future.
I should, however, point out here that the actions that need to be undertaken should be supported by coordinated efforts from all stakeholders including the Government, the tourism industry, the airport operator as well as the airlines. Moreover, the fact that Cyprus is a point of entry into the European Union from the Middle East and the Gulf region gives it an additional advantage which should be exploited. We have already done much, but we can do more.
Referring to the scope of this conference, that is the promotion of Air transport in Cyprus in relation to Tourism, which is an essential domain for the Cyprus economy, I congratulate, The Flight Safety Foundation Mediterranean, for its efforts to this effect. I am sure that at the end of this conference there would be important conclusions, which will be adopted for the success of the above scope.
Dear friends, let me conclude by saying that everybody involved in civil aviation have a very important role to play.
I wish every success to the conference and I anticipate that the subjects presented as well as the vivid discussion between the speakers and participants will enlighten everybody.
Source: Press and Information Office