Nov 28 2012

Over two years of efforts by Van businessmen to start flights between
their hometown and Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, have yielded
results that may shift shuttle trade from Istanbul to the eastern
province as well as boost local tourism revenues.

Round-trip flights between the two cities will kick off in two weeks,
Ayhan Fidan, a businessman and member of the Van Industry and Trade
Chamber (VATSO), told the Daily News.

VATSO has completed legal procedures regarding aviation regulations
and a plane will be rented from the local Bora Jet firm. "The land
border between Turkey and Armenia is closed, despite the fact that
air entrances and exits are free. This is a clear contrast. We want
the border gates to open," said Fidan.

The Turkish border has been closed since 1993, when a war broke out
between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, there are regular flights
from Istanbul to Armenia twice a week in the winter and from the
southern province of Antalya and western tourist resort of Bodrum in
the summer. There are also regular bus services.

"The land distance between Van and Yerevan is 230 kilometers. It is
possible to cover this distance by car if the border was open. Now you
have to fly this [short] distance. It will take 25 minutes for a plane
to take off in Van and to land in Yerevan. The total trip will take one
hour at the most. Isn't that a contradiction in itself?" said Fidan.

A total of 30 tourism firms based in Van have created package tours
that will support air travel between the two cities, he said. "We aim
for 79 percent occupancy rates in the flights," Fidan said, adding
that tickets prices would be 120 Turkish Liras. The shuttle trade in
Istanbul may shift to Van as a result of the flights, thanks to its
lower transportation costs, Fidan said.

Van is a significant destination for Armenians both from Armenia and
the Diaspora, due to the once-a-year church service at the Armenian
Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Lake Van's Akdamar Island.

Flights are very important for economic relations to improve as
well as for entrepreneurs in Van, Bitlis and Kars, the Union of
Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Armenia President Arsen Ghazaryan
said, according to the news portal The flights will
receive substantial interest in Armenia and contribute to regional
tourism, Ghazaryan said.