Louis Cruise Lines is to resume it’s one-time popular itinerary to the Holy Lands after an absence of four years with four to five cruises planned for this year, Group Chairman Costakis Loizou said.
The first of 3-day cruises will leave Limassol on Good Friday, April 29, in order for Greek Orthodox believers to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem.
The cruise ship will anchor in Haifa port, from where two full-day excursions will take passengers to Jerusalem and other holy sights of Christendom and on the second they will travel to the Sea of Galilee and Gethsemane.
Access to the holy sights within Palestinian-controlled areas such as Bethlehem or Jericho will depend on the sustainability of the fragile peace in the region.
Three more cruises will follow on May 13, June 3 and October 10. A 3-day combination cruise will take holidaymakers to Egypt and Israel leaving on June 26 and September 23.
Loizou also revealed that the Group plans to commence cruises from the port of Piraeus to the Aegean sea islands including Constantinople, under Greek flag and following arrangements made in Greece in order to bypass the Turkish embargo on Cypriot-flag ships docking at its ports.
Loizou also confirmed that the “short break” trips to Lebanon, which are proving popular will continue. He said that apart from the Cypriot vacationers and others seeking bargains in Beirut and other sight seeing tours, some 1,000 Lebanese also enjoy the cruise and opt for the 7-day cruise to the Greek isles.
Referring to the tourism prospects for 2005, the head of the largest tour group on the island said he agrees with the general forecast for a 5% increase in arrivals, but noted that “arrivals are forecast to rise from two successive years of decline.”
“What matters more, is the quality of the tourists and their spending, which unfortunately is on the decline,” said Loizou, noting that the island’s tourist product remains expensive compared to other destinations.
This may well explain why the Louis Group has embarked on a massive diversification plan and currently generates more than 90% of its profits from overseas operations. Despite the dismal conditions facing the tourism industry in Cyprus, Loizou reiterated his bullish forecast that the Group will maintain a satisfactory increase in profitability during 2005, matching the reported profits of CYP 9.4 mln for 2004.