In a recent interview published by the Cyprus Mail, a daily English speaking newspaper in Cyprus, Eleni Kaloyirou, CEO of Hermes Airports, the company that manages the two international airports of Cyprus, talked about the company’s strategy, the importance of its people and communication, and how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the airports and the tourism sector in Cyprus.
“Traffic will bounce back, it’s a matter of time” believes Hermes Airports CEO Eleni Kaloyirou. “And growing traffic at Larnaka and Pafos airports is a key element of our strategy.”
Kaloyirou sees the airports as gateways into an island that depends on tourism. “To this extent, we work closely with the Ministry of Tourism, which has its own strategic planning for promotion of Cyprus as a destination either directly to various markets or at tourism forums, most of which we attend together, aiming to meet with tour operators, and airlines. At the same time, we maintain communication with airlines both existing and new ones for the development of their network to Cyprus. Put the two together, and that’s how the traffic is built”.
Kaloyirou also sees people as a key factor in the company’s strategy. No staff cuts were made during the pandemic crisis, by Hermes Airports and, despite the tremendous slowdown at both airports, the company kept all its staff at full salary, taking assistance from the special Government schemes in support of employment.
Your people are the core of your company, so you stand by them when times are challenging.
“Our strategy is built on six pillars: To grow traffic, to improve our commercial revenues, to improve the customer experience, to achieve operational excellence, to strengthen stakeholder relationships, and to focus on people.”
“When the crisis hit, it was important to maintain regular communication with all of our stakeholders, and thanks to the channels already established we were able to do that and ensure that everybody was on the same page in terms of dealing with the unprecedented situation and circumstances we were facing” she adds.
Kaloyirou learned to prioritise people and communication early in her career, after moving to Cyprus Airways from KPMG, where she had specialized in banking and treasury. “At Cyprus Airways, I was managing a finance department with a staff of 180, so I made the transition to leading people. Very little can be accomplished, unless you can build a team and communicate well with them, whilst providing the right environment enabling everyone to perform at their best. I think that you must work with people who are committed to the same vision and can contribute towards achieving it, for the benefit of the company and all its stakeholders” she explains.
Communication has also been a key factor in Hermes Airport’s strategy for growth of traffic. Kaloyirou gives an example: Right in the midst of the crisis, years of strategic planning and discussions with Wizz Air bore fruit, as the airline made Larnaka airport a base for initially two and now three aircraft. The significance of having a base in Larnaka, is that flights start from here, so they can serve a larger number of destinations which are important to our country’s connectivity and tourism sector. “This is a vote of confidence by the airline for Cyprus and the airport. This commitment is further strengthened with the addition of 16 routes, 13 of which are new for the airport”.
Competition is tough for airports today. “We have managed to form solid partnerships with airlines and to this extent we had seen tremendous growth in connectivity in the last few years. Growth in traffic is not a given nor is it an easy task. It takes planning and hard work to deliver results. Passengers will not come just to visit the airport (however good the service may be!) but to visit the country. Therefore, we have put an emphasis on promoting the destination to potential visitors and airlines. 2019 was a record year in passenger traffic with a total of 11.3 million passengers via 70 airlines connecting Cyprus with 150 destinations in 40 countries. When Hermes Airports assumed management and operation of the two airports in 2006 there were less than 7 million passengers with limited connectivity” Kaloyirou explains.
“The current thinking is that the traffic levels of 2019 are expected to be achieved or exceeded by 2023 – 2024. That is quite a long period of time, but obviously the expectation is that after this, growth of traffic will continue to higher levels. Our airports have the capacity to serve a lot more passengers than we served in 2019 so our intention is to continue focusing on our long-term strategy. I would say that elements of our strategy are currently parked or paused because of the circumstances, but we have not changed it. We have taken measures to ensure that we can survive the crisis until we are ready to resume our plans.”
The views expressed are the author’s and not ICAEW’s.