Low-cost airlines can be a booster for SA's economy, according to Airline Association of Southern Africa CEO Chris Zweigenthal.
Speaking at the organisation’s annual general meeting, hosted by Air Austral in Reunion on Friday, Zweigenthal said low-cost airlines already occupy about 65.4% of South Africa’s domestic market - and that numberis growing.
"Viable and sustainable airlines create and support jobs, foster skills development, drive innovation, encourage entrepreneurial initiatives and enhance economic competitiveness," he said.
"The airline industry is critical for enabling socio-economic growth and development. It facilitates investment, trade and tourism."
At the same time, he is not convinced that Africa’s leaders fully appreciate aviation’s strategic importance and the benefits it delivers.
That is why AASA, alongside the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Air Transport Action Group and ICAO, persistently draw government authorities, regulators and policy-makers’ attention to these benefits.
"Our aim is to encourage collaboration and achieve mutually beneficial solutions," said Zweigenthal.
However, inconsistent policies within and between states must be addressed, in his view.
"A positive development is the African Union’s attempt to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area. When fully implemented, it will be the world’s largest single trading bloc. Aviation, trade and tourism are among the key pillars," he said.
"Trade and tourism will flourish if people and goods can move freely throughout the continent in a visa-free and streamlined customs environment."
In his State of the Nation Address this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to increase SA's economic growth through tourism, stating an ambition to more than double international tourist arrivals to 21 million by 2030, Fin24 previously reported.
According to an annual review by the World Travel & Tourism Council, travel and tourism in South Africa contributed 1.5 million jobs and R425.8bn to the economy in 2018, representing 8.6% of all economic activity in the country and making SA the largest tourism economy in Africa.
* Fin24 is a guest of AASA at its AGM.