NICOSIA, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Cyprus will have a ferry link, initially with Greece and later with other countries, such as Egypt, Israel and Lebanon, for the first time in decades, according to deputy minister for shipping Natasa Pilides.
She told a parliamentary committee Tuesday that the feasibility for the project has been completed, but a state subsidy decision is still pending.
Pilides said that the link with Greece is expected to be operational by next summer while the government is mulling over similar agreements with other neighboring countries.
She said the ferry will sail from the southern port of Limassol, but the destination in Greece has yet to be decided.
Ferry services between Limassol and Piraeus were discontinued more than 40 years ago as travelers preferred to go to Athens by plane in a 90-minute flight.
However, the issue of restoring a ferry link was revived, as a recent shortage of available plane seats drove the price of flight tickets sky-high. There were complaints recently that the cost of flight to Athens is as much as a flight to London or New York after the closure of the Cobalt Airline, the second largest airline at Larnaca International Airport after Aegean Airlines before it ceased operations last year due to financial difficulties.
Travel by ferry could become popular as travelers could take their cars along without any paper work or bureaucracy involved, as Cyprus and Greece are EU member states.
Pilides said that after the government makes a decision to subsidize the connection -- but not the commercial aspects of the link -- a tender completion will be announced, with a view of starting the 30-hour trips to Greece before next summer.
Pilides said the ferry fare will be cheaper than the airfare and will probably include an intermediate stop, such as Rhodes.
The route will be carried out once per week between May and September and once every fortnight during the winter.
House President Demetris Syllouris told the parliamentary committee that Egypt has expressed interest in a ferry connection between Cyprus and Alexandria.
Deputy Minister for Tourism, Savvas Perdios, said that the ferry connection with Greece was very important and that there was room for links with Israel, Lebanon and Egypt.
A ferry link at reasonable prices would encourage tourists to include more than one country in their holiday plans in the region.
"If these efforts bear fruit, the ministry plans to contribute with its own efforts as regards joint packages with neighboring countries," Perdios said.
He said the ferry link could be a way to counter a drop in tourist arrivals, mostly because of Brexit uncertainty. He said arrivals were down by 1 percent, with more losses probably on the way as a result of increasing competition from Turkey, mostly in relation to tourists from Russia.
He said tourism revenues could drop by 5 percent this year.
"Things are expected to be difficult next year and for that reason the ministry is taking measures by trying to attract more markets and is also working on common programs with other countries," Perdios said. Enditem