Cypriot airport operator Hermes Airports expects a spike in visitor arrivals to the Mediterranean island next year as the coastal city of Paphos is one of two cities to earn the accolade of European Capital of Culture for 2017 – which Routes Europe 2016 host Krakow won in 2000.
This is one of the most prestigious cultural events in the world, giving a city like Paphos the opportunity to highlight the importance of cultural development. Following the opportunities that will arise, tourist numbers could continue to break records.
Speaking to Routesonline at the Routes Europe air service development forum in Kraków, Poland, Maria Kouroupi, senior manager marketing and communications, Hermes Airports, highlighted the benefits of the selection. “It is a very good opportunity for the airports as it is something that is going to bring a lot of traffic to Cyprus, but it also creating these bi-products that could lead to increased demand,” she said.
Paphos International Airport is one of two airports under the control of Hermes Airports in Cyprus, alongside Larnaca International Airport. The company, a consortium of nine shareholders, representing both Cypriot and international partners, is a regular Routes event attendee, but this year it has a first hosted stand.
Larnaca International Airport is the main gateway to Cyprus, and is the larger of the two Hermes airports. Together, both airports handle over seven million passengers a year. Traffic alone at Larnaca has risen to over five million, double the capacity the airport was originally designed to handle.
As Cyprus has grown as a tourist destination over the years, both airports have made sure they can deal with growing passenger numbers. Hermes Airports has held control of them for the last ten years, assuming management in May 2006.
In the last decade, significant infrastructure improvements have been made. At Larnaca, a new terminal building was opened in 2009, giving the airport the ability to handle 7.5 million passengers a year. The new terminal was extended in 2013 to handle 9 million passengers, while a runway extension lengthened the landing strip by 500 metres.
In recent years, Cyprus has solidified its status as a tourist destination with passenger numbers rising steadily. The island welcomes more than two million tourists a year, making it the 40th most popular destination in the world. As much of its traffic is leisure, Cyprus experiences higher numbers in summer months between March and October. If Cyprus can reposition itself, it could be able to spread the current season out to year-round.
In 2015, the number of tourist arrivals to the island hit a 14 year high at 2.65 million. The first quarter of 2016 has already seen a 32.4 percent increase compared to the same timeframe in 2015. British tourists make up the vast majority of the arrival numbers – that section of the market grew by 44 percent last year to 59,282. This record year for Cyprus has seen the island return to growth after nearly four years of a harsh recession.
“We have 70 airlines flying from our airports this year to over 100 destinations from 40 countries so it’s quite a diversified market. We are looking at achieving over eight million passengers for both airports which is a double digit growth. This is huge – it’s going to be a record year for us,” said Kouroupi.
“We see good growth from Russia, we see growth from the UK and we do see growth from smaller markets like Ukraine, Poland, France, and Switzerland. We would like to make sure that this growth is maintained,” she added.