Wes Porter, CEO at Hermes Airports talks exclusively to Cyprus Traveller giving an insight into the work being done behind the scenes to further enhance airline traffic to and from the island.
CT: What is your number one priority as the island’s airport operator?
Wes: Our main priority at Hermes Airports is passenger traffic growth in and out of Cyprus. Given that Cyprus is an island destination, primary access is by air which means year-round growing traffic.
We need to ensure Cyprus is once again known as a year-round destination by rejuvenating the biggest asset it has – the sun and sea – while celebrating new or forgotten exciting experiences. The recent invitation to tender for the development of a comprehensive national tourism strategy for Cyprus by the Tourism Ministry is an excellent initiative that once delivered and implemented will help to reposition Cyprus as a tourism destination.
While the strategy is unfolding, we will continue to focus on key source markets and ramp up efforts to target the individual traveller – more and more people are sourcing their own tickets, hotels, and in-country tours, for example. We are committed to partnering in direct marketing campaigns and using digital promotions aimed at meeting the individual’s needs.
The market we operate in is very competitive with similar destinations surrounding us. We are in continuous discussions with airlines and tour operators and are working hard towards aligning efforts with the Government, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation and other industry stakeholders to encourage growth throughout the year in a strategic way.
CT: Following concentrated efforts, many new airlines have been welcomed at Cyprus’ airports recently. How have these carriers impacted traffic at both Larnaka and Pafos International Airports and what are the expected benefits?
Wes: We are focussed on ensuring Cyprus has strong connectivity across all of Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Middle East and North Africa. Strong air connectivity facilitates and generates wider economic performance: it increases trade between countries, it promotes higher investment both from within the country and from abroad; it improves tourism opportunities and activities; it sustains a stronger and more flexible workforce; it lowers consumer costs and it results in better overall productivity. In simple terms, it creates wealth.
But strong connectivity doesn’t happen without the demand – airlines aren’t just flying to Cyprus because it happens to be a nice place to work and play. There are plenty of alternatives. Our air service development team has been working very hard for the alignment of stakeholders towards common goals and targets and the best possible combination of resources and support. We do invest a significant amount of money to develop air services and to support tourism development on the island and we are very proud for the results achieved so far. There is still a lot of work to be done.
Airlines fly to make money for their shareholders – plain and simple. Unprofitable routes ultimately are cut. Airlines need multi segment traffic to fill the planes and look for year-round destinations to place their assets and de-risk the investment. In short, demand is the key and is a strong determinate in their decision making process.
CT: How many passengers passed through the airports this year? Have you noticed an increase in passenger figures compared to last year?
Wes: The cumulative results for the period January to July 2015 show an increase of 3.3 per cent or 32,925 more passengers in comparison to the corresponding period of last year. However, the reduction of capacity in the flights from Russia remains unpleasantly notable. That is why we remain focussed and persistent in our efforts to grow passenger traffic. To this effect we are working hard and together with the airlines and all the stakeholders of the Cyprus tourism industry.
CT: How would you evaluate Hermes Airports contribution to the Cyprus economy?
Wes: Given the existence of the two international airports in Cyprus, the country realises a benefit of some €500 million, or just under three per cent of the overall GDP. Aviation delivers some 12,700 jobs and contributes about €125 million in terms of government revenues. For every new daily flight introduced about 100 new jobs are created in the country; jobs that generate additional sources of income for the tourism industry and the economy of the country as a whole.
The airports are a major driver of the country’s economic growth, a key generator of thousands of jobs. Our contribution helps to generate economic benefits for Cypriots and we are proud of this. Coming out of the financial crisis, we believe the strategy, structure and cooperation will be in place to strengthen the contribution of aviation to the economic well-being of Cyprus.