In a bid to reverse a surprising slump in tourism from nearby Israel, Cypriot authorities are considering opening up the lucrative Larnaca-Tel Aviv route to outside competition, government sources said Tuesday, April 3.
According to official tourism figures, the number of Israeli tourists visiting the island last year fell by 30 percent, although overall arrivals reached record levels. The figure dropped to 42,000 Israeli tourists coming in 2000 from 60,000 in 1999.
The disappointing figures are blamed on a regime of night flights, no weekend departures and expensive fares.
"There was a sharp decline in tourists from Israel and flights at unsuitable hours is part of the problem," a government source told AFP.
Cyprus, touted as the new Ibiza, hosted a record 2.7-million tourists last year — 50 percent from the UK — but Israelis are apparently going elsewhere. Estimates for 2001 put tourist arrivals around the three million mark.
Like lucrative Cyprus Airways routes to London and Athens, the Tel-Aviv destination is protected and covered by a bilateral agreement between the national carrier and Israel's El-Al. "We've had many complaints, so we are trying to rectify the matter," said the government source.
Private Cypriot charter firm Helios is a possible candidate for the Tel-Aviv route. The Ministerial Air Transport Committee is expected to take a decision next Monday. — (AFP, Nicosia)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)