Open skies debate peaks at WTM

2012-11-08 16:12

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London -  South Africa joined tourism organisations from around the world at the World Travel Market (WTM) to discuss the rising barriers to travel in a panel discussion, called Open Skies and Open Borders - led by the UNWTO - in partnership with public and private sector participants from around the world.

The topical debate around open skies is one that has preoccupied tourism for some time now and is centred around authorities spending millions on destination marketing yet raising the barriers to travel due to unreasonable taxes, air access issues and cumbersome Visa processes.

It was noted by UNWTO, ministers, air travel associations and representatives of the private sector that committed partnership between aviation, government and the travel sector is needed in order to ease the barriers to travel and a call was made for the tourism industry to step outside of traditional comfort zones into a new era of innovation, particularly with regard to the web and travel technology in assisting accessibility and ease of travel. During the panel discussion, Minister of Tourism for South Africa, Mr Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, committed to drive the development of broad e-visa coverage for SA in the next five years.

Reporting from the conference, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold stressed that; “Cape Town and South Africa must participate actively in this debate. Air access and affordability is critical to a long haul destination, particularly as carbon fuel costs rise. It’s vital that we have an airline orbit that is both competitive for its investors and user-friendly for travellers. Our country’s leadership on this could move us into a priority position in the African travel market.”

As Cape Town’s summer tourism season begins, Cape Town International Airport welcomed German airline, Condor, who began servicing the destination this week. The airline started a seasonal twice weekly service between Cape Town and Frankfurt – taking over from Lufthansa’s servicing of the route (although Lufthansa continues to connect Cape Town and Munich).

Last month, the following flights – over and above Condor’s – were also added to the destination’s schedule to total an additional inbound seat capacity of approximately 10 000 inbound per week:

•         Virgin Atlantic Airways re-introduced direct daily flights between Cape Town and London. These flights will continue until April 2013.
•         British Airways increased their usual daily service to twice-daily flights between Cape Town and Heathrow until the end of March 2013. British Airways is now the only airline serving this route all year-round.
•         Lufthansa has begun servicing Cape Town from Munich (as opposed to Frankfurt) with five flights a week.
•         Swiss airline, Edelweiss, started its seasonal flights to Cape Town from Zurich with non-stop flights twice a week.
•         Air France has resumed its seasonal flights to Cape Town from Paris with thrice weekly flights, which will continue until May 2013.
•         Turkish Air has added four additional flights per week to their schedule from October 2012.

CEO of Wesgro, Nils Flaatten, concludes; “The growing itinerary of flights is a vote of confidence in Cape Town as a tourism destination. In the classic chicken-and-egg scenario, one needs flight capacity to service increased demand – which can only be created if there is flight capacity. The fact that we have strong seasonal commitment from our airlines gives us further room to grow our markets. Specifically, what we need now is for these flights to continue all year round. We are working with the airlines to profile the destination in order to get this balance right but we do need to draw the numbers in order to make this viable. We are all working hard on an attractive year-round business and leisure product offering for Cape Town, and with the CTICC expanding its capacity, as well as a growing line up of both business and leisure events, the potential is there for us to realize.”
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