Cyprus close to sealing Saudi air link

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Cyprus is inches away from sealing a deal with airlines to establish a direct flight connection with Saudi Arabia’s coastal town of Jeddah to boost tourist traffic.

Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios, from Jeddah, told the Financial Mirror the island is closer than ever in fulfilling the goal of establishing a connection with Saudi Arabia, reaching an “extremely’ promising market”.

“A connection with this specific market has been in our plans for the past three years, as we feel that the Saudi market, although new, has a lot of potential,” said Perdios.

Asked why authorities want a connection with Jeddah, not the Saudi capital Riyadh, Perdios said that authorities believe the resort town “could work both ways, creating a win-win situation for both sides”.

Like Riyadh, Jeddah is home to a large number of foreign nationals, but also people with a higher living standard than the majority of Saudi Arabia.

“And it is just a 90-minute flight away, unlike Riyadh, which is two-and-a-half-hours away.

“Compared to Riyadh, Jeddah is less business orientated, and easier to promote Cyprus as a destination for a holiday getaway and civil weddings.”

Perdios confirmed that Cyprus’ ambition to add a direct flight from Jeddah was met with great interest by local stakeholders and airlines.

“We have met with several airlines, tour operators and the local commerce chamber, all of whom were excited to hear our proposal.

“A deal with Jeddah could bring about package holiday deals as both destinations can offer quick getaways, due to their proximity”.

A possible deal could also boost the island’s cruising industry, drawing travellers from Saudi who want to hop on a cruise ship for a tour in the Mediterranean.

“Jeddah will also be an attractive destination for Cypriots, as it is a tourist resort on the Red Sea, offering visitors the opportunity for a number of activities, including watching a Formula 1 race.”

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is held at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit and is one of the circuits in the Formula 1 championship.

This year’s race in Jeddah will be held on 27 March.

“If the deal goes through, then we will launch a campaign to get tour operators on board with tourist packages not only for Cypriots and Saudi residents but also for travellers from Europe.”

Perdios said promoting packaged holidays for Cyprus and Jeddah is pushed further down the line, after the end of the pandemic, as “travelling just to one destination is difficult enough as it is”.

Authorities and local tourism stakeholders are ready to facilitate inbound tourists as soon as the green light is given by airlines.

“Our consulate in Jeddah has the authority to issue tourist visas almost on the spot, while local tourism stakeholders, like hoteliers, are also onboard ready to facilitate tourists from Saudi Arabia.”

From Saudi Arabia, Perdios will fly to Dubai on Tuesday to join President Nicos Anastasiades and Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos on an official visit to the United Arab Emirates.