VILNIUS - As Latvia and Estonia begin to compete over accommodating bargain airliners in an effort to become an East European travel hub, Lithuania stands to lose up to 100 million litas (2.9 million euros) in annual tourism revenues, according to reports.
The business daily Verslo Zinios wrote on Sept. 3 that Lithuania's industry was hopeful that low-cost airlines would overcome opposition from Lithuanian authorities, which have been protecting the national air carrier Lietuvos Avialinijos (Lithuanian Airlines).
Discount carriers are interested in launching regular flights to Vilnius International Airport.
"We're interested in Vilnius Airport, but it is too expensive and is doing nothing to lower costs. The airport risks being left behind [by its competitors]," Toby Nicol, corporate communications manager at EasyJet, was quoted as saying.
"If the low cost airlines abandon their intentions [to run flights from Vilnius] altogether, we stand to lose 5 to 7 percent of tourists, and even more in the future," said Kestutis Ambrozaitis, president of the Lithuanian Tourism Association.
He added that Lithuania stood to lose 50,000 to 100,000 tourists per year, which would add up to 33 million 's 75 million litas in lost revenues annually.
Britain's bargain airline, EasyJet, announced last week that it was due to start services from Estonia and Latvia. In late October, EasyJet plans to open a route from Tallinn to London, and two more in November - from Tallinn and Riga to Berlin.
The airline's biggest rival, Ireland's Ryanair, announced in July that it would launch outbound flights from Riga to three destinations 's London, Frankfurt and Tampere 's on Oct. 31.
Both Riga and Tallinn reduced their airport and passenger charges in order to attract Europe's leading low fare airlines.