Cape Town - Nothing improves tourism to a country quite like direct route access. Airlift is a key piece in the economic puzzle of the international tourism industry pie.
Tourism as an industry is pegged to be a light at the end of the job-creation tunnel and tipped to have long-term potential to turn the dire economic situation around for South Africa as well as add spin-offs for the continent as a whole.
SEE: Tourism can help SA course correct its current economic trajectory - Winde
And nobody seems to be driving this narrative quite like the Cape Town Air Access team, a partnership focused on international air route development in the Western Cape.
Cape Town Air Access is a partnership, based at Wesgro, between the Western Cape Government, the City of Cape Town, Airports Company of South Africa, Cape Town Tourism and now South African Tourism. The Steering Committee comprises representatives from these partners and meets every quarter to guide the work of the project team.
Collectively they've been responsible for negotiating ten new routes and 11 route expansions since its inception in 2015, adding over 650 000 seats and thereby helping Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) reach the 10 million passengers mark for the first time in 2016.
Added to this a much anticipated US to Cape Town route is also on the cards - but the details or confirmation of this has not been received as yet - SEE: Direct flight between US and Cape Town on the cards - Wesgro
On Thursday, 31 August South African Tourism (SAT) officially became a member of the Cape Town Air Access Steering Committee - a good move all round considering the objective of SA's destination marketing organisation in wanting to improve on the 12.8 percent increase in international arrivals to South African in 2016 - a landmark 10 million international tourists and counting.
SEE: New SA flight routes travellers can take advantage of in 2017
Wesgro, one of the founding cogs in this direct routes machine confirmed the committee unanimously voted in June this year to make SAT a member.
SAT CEO Sisa Ntshona, who was also in the city to attend the THINC Africa conference on Wednesday 30 August, officially completed the process on Thursday by signing the Cape Town Air Access membership agreement on behalf of the national tourism agency.
Speaking at the conference Ntshona highlighted that of 1.2 billion international arrivals in 2016, less than five percent of those came to Africa, and one percent to South Africa.
"To a large extent, we’re still undiscovered," Ntshona points out optimistically.
'Getting rid of the Gini coefficient'
Tasked with growing South Africa’s tourism economy, joining the committee is a smart move for SA Tourism overall. Ntshona says, “South Africa’s National Development Plan reckons tourism is a sector that can help take us out of this technical recession with high unemployment, particularly among youth.
Ntshona says while South Africa is looking for growth, it is looking for distributive growth that is inclusive of the majority of its citizens so as to reduce the Gini coefficient, which is one of the highest in the world.
“The more tourism grows, the more people will become economically active,” he says.
SEE: SA 'outperforms Thailand and Australia' as domestic tourism still lags
“ We’re confident that our new national partner will help take the initiative to new heights,” says Wesgro CEO Tim Harris, affirming the the committee's success over the last two years.
Harris confirmed that the added capacity created by the access committee has seen the international terminal grow at an unprecedented 27% for the first half of 2017, and the airport is expecting 2 million more international passengers this year than it processed in 2016.
SEE: Subdued growth across SA's major airports - Acsa
"Cape Town Air Access has already secured new routes to Victoria Falls and Cologne as well as the expansion of Air France’s Paris route this year to help CTIA reach its ambitious goals,"
This increased air access will also make a significant impact on jobs and growth as 3 000 jobs are supported by each regularly scheduled long-haul flight, and for every 10% increase in passenger numbers the regional economy grows by 2%.
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