The biggest challenge facing the airline industry in Southern Africa this year is sustainability and determining and implementing strategies that return airlines to profitability (or maintain profitability), under very difficult current trading conditions.
So says Chris Zweigenthal, CE of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA).
“Airlines will need to find means to reduce costs, increase productivity and increase aircraft utilisation and yields in an environment where economic growth in South Africa (0.5%) and within the Southern African region (3%) is lower than the rest of Africa and currently lower than the global average,” he told Tourism Update.
According to Zweigenthal, this is not conducive to sustainability and growth for the industry. “Africa will need to become more active in climate-change mitigation, with the international focus expected to intensify in this area over the next year, and where, for example, actions to proactively address flight-shaming need to be coordinated and implemented.”
He says the biggest opportunity for the industry is to engineer success out of all of these challenges.
“This will be a tough journey, but improving productivity can certainly assist in reducing costs. The travel and tourism industry must continue to press for the relaxation of visa regimes.” He says opportunities to relax restrictions on a broad scale will increase the opportunities and options for passengers to travel between states.
Furthermore, he adds, actions moving Africa toward the implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market will be ramped up and states must address concerns that have been raised by some countries about this programme.
He says, in addition to the above measures, the development of the African Continental Free Trade Area will facilitate the transportation of goods between states.
Zweigenthal points out that another big opportunity is for Africa to build on the excellent jet aircraft safety record recorded for 2016 to 2018 (with the only blemish for Africa being the tragic Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX accident in May 2019).
In terms of revitalising tourism and travel to Southern Africa, he believes the destination sells itself but agrees that the potential is not being realised. He agrees with the sentiment raised in previous TU Industry Outlook articles that the safety and security of tourists is paramount. Not only is being proactive essential, along with successful capture and prosecution of perpetrators, but the industry needs to go further.