30 October 2007
Half of South Africa’s air travel routes are currently underused, a situation that has to be changed by the aviation industry if the country is to continue benefiting from high growth in its tourism sector, delegates were told at the 2007 National Tourism Conference in Johannesburg.
Transport Minister Jeff Radebe appealed to representatives of the aviation industry at the conference, which was aimed at strengthening the ties between aviation and tourism, to better exploit routes for which they have licenses, especially ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
“We are triumphant in the sporting arena, experiencing strong economic growth and with the 2010 World Cup almost upon us – we need to take advantage of the situation,” he said.
He pointed out to the fact that in the run-up to 2010 there was just one air carrier flying between South Africa and Brazil as an opportunity waiting to be exploited.
With South Africa’s tourism sector growing at three times the world average and the aviation sector experiencing 10% annual growth, Radebe said it was vital to for the two to increase cooperation.
He said that while the local aviation industry had boomed since the end of apartheid, more could still be done. “In 1993, fewer than 12 international airlines flew to South Africa. In 1995 there were 20 airlines that flew to South Africa, and now in 2007, we have over 70 international airlines that fly into the country.”
Identifying key markets
Environment and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk told delegates that his department had as part of their strategy to improve air links identified Australia, France, Germany, India, Kenya, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States as nine essential markets.
He said that 55% of South Africa’s foreign tourists came from those countries, while those same tourists accounted for 61% of the foreign currency spent in the country.
The identified markets collectively held a potential 76 million tourists for South Africa and could significantly boost the 8.3 million tourists who visited the country in 2006.
He said such figures were the rational behind the need to partner with aviation stakeholders in the drive to increase tourism’s contribution to economic growth and development.
Van Schalwyk said that despite great strides having been made in the aviation industry, more needed to be done to increase competitiveness, and for South African tourism authorities and industry players and aviation stakeholders needed to enhance the way in which they package and present the country.
“A flight from London to Sydney, which is a 23 hour flight, is 40% cheaper than a flight from London to Johannesburg, which is an 11 hour flight,” he said.