3 December, 2019 17:26

Armenia Abolishes 'Air Tax' to Boost Tourism and Attract Airliners

By Emilio Luciano Cricchio

An airline has entered proceedings to become Armenia’s flag carrier, furthermore “air taxes” will be cancelled in a bid to boost tourism and attract airliners to start flights to Armenia. 

The chairwoman of the Civil Aviation Committee, Tatevik Revazyan gave a speech to the National Assembly on Tuesday stating that an airline is already in discussions with the Civil Aviation Committee to become Armenia’s national carrier. 

Armenia has lacked a national carrier since the previous flag carrier, Armavia filed for bankruptcy in 2013, making it the only country in the region without a national carrier. 

This was coupled with draft legislation that would get rid of air taxes for airlines operating in Armenia.

The benefits of this initiative, according to Revazyan, would include greater competitiveness in the market, reduced ticket prices, as well as better incentives for airlines to operate in Armenia.

Revazyan added that the tax break would only be available to airlines that operate throughout the year, encouraging airlines to operate year round, as many currently only operate on a seasonal basis. 

Revazyan stated, “If an airline wants to enter the airline market at a time when it is most efficient and close its service during the winter, it will not be granted this privilege.” 

The proposed changes, Revazyan insisted will not reduce the state budget, adding that if tax breaks incentivize airliners to operate year round then the added revenue will make up for the tax break. 

Tourism has become a key growth sector in Armenia, with a 14.4% increase of tourists between January-September of 2019, according to official statistics. Armenia has received  1.65 million tourists in 2018, compared to 1.5 million the previous year of 2017.

2020 looks to be a year of further growth, especially with new flight routes opening to Armenia, such as Ryanair’s scheduled new routes to Milan, Berlin and Memmingen, as well as the beginning of flights to the Russian cities of Kaluga and Anapa. 

Tatevik Revazyan had said in November, “We have eight new confirmed flights and plan to increase the number to 10 by summer 2020.”

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan lauded the developments in air travel to Armenia, as his government has made expanding the tourism sector a priority. Pashinyan added that the government is committed to abolishing the “air tax,” and will apply additional financial incentives for flights going to Gyumri.

According to the Civil Aviation Committee’s estimations, passenger traffic to Armenian airports will increase by about 300,000 next year.

“Given our total passenger flow at Yerevan’s Zvartnots and Gyumri’s Shirak airports is about 2.9 million, this is quite an impressive figure,” Revazyan further added that the new proposals under discussion will only help improve this figure. 

Further estimates by the Committee suggest that in the next three years, tourism developments will create thousands of new jobs, infrastructure improvements, better access to international markets, as well as a greater state budget due to increased tax revenue.