Air access important if SA wants 5 million more tourists - official

Air access is very important if SA Tourism (SAT) wants to deliver on the goal of attracting 5 million more tourists by 2021 compared to 2017 - 4 million more international tourists and a million more domestic tourists, according to Bradley Brower, head of global trade for SA Tourism (SAT).

"It is very important to understand how complex air access really is. Aviation is a complex business. It is important to know why airlines decide to fly to SA and why some decide to pull out. It is very important to identify markets that are key and strategic and to get them to fly to SA. We need experts to show us what is needed," he said at the recent World Travel Market (WTM) Africa in Cape Town.

"We want inclusive economic growth in tourism and to position SA as an exceptional tourist and business destination that offers quality and a diverse offering."

As part of its approach, SAT is looking at how to target the potential of the meetings, incentives, conference and exhibition (MICE) sector in a big way. The SA National Convention Bureau will continue to focus on important areas in the MICE sector.

"There is a lot of legislative red tape to comply with in the tourism industry. That is why we want to optimise investment in the tourism market by reassessing and aligning the SA's tourism brand. You need a panel of experts because cutting out red tape is very important," he said.

"It is critical to develop effective partnerships. Air access is expensive, and we must utilise resources effectively."

He pointed out that the Cape Town Air Access committee has been doing very well. In his view, the key factor in the success of the air access attempts in Cape Town, is that they have the right people involved to make things happen.

"Their model is very good and other provinces have asked the Cape Town experts to help them too," said Brower.

 It is very important to know that, when airlines decide to fly to South Africa, they can pull out again at short notice. One of the challenges to help address for airlines flying to SA is to build 2-way traffic as the airlines also need tickets to be sold in rand.

"Once airlines are flying here, the distribution of the tourists is very important for us. It is key for us to make sure we get distribution to all provinces to make sure all benefit. That would also give us more products to sell – especially for repeat visitors," he said.

"We must make sure of job creation and inclusivity. We must make sure South Africans produce authenticity and give tourists what they want."

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