Aviation bigwigs are calling on tourism boards to curate an African air routes blueprint

Aviation industry leaders at the AviaDev Workshop discussing solutions on the role of aviation in tourism. Picture: Supplied

Aviation industry leaders at the AviaDev Workshop discussing solutions on the role of aviation in tourism. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 9, 2024


Aviation captains of industry believe national tourism boards have a unique opportunity to and create and drive new airline routes and spur economic growth.

Experts said Africa’s vast tourism potential remains untapped due to a lack of air connectivity.

Speaking at AviaDev Africa workshop, hosted in collaboration with the SADC Business Council Tourism Alliance, airline executives stressed that the power of tourism boards would gain sway in leveraging market data and industry relationships to convince sceptical carriers of the long-term viability of new routes.

UN Tourism’s senior Africa communications expert Kojo Bentum-Williams said tourism is more than just leisure but a critical economic activity that required strategic thinking and collaboration across sectors.

Sylvain Bosc, former chief commercial officer of SAA and Fastjet, emphasised the importance of demonstrating sustained profitability.

“Destination marketing organisations (DMOs) must sell a long-term vision highlighting the destination’s growth prospects and economic impact.

“Creative incentives like co-marketing, reducing airline costs, and quantifying passenger volumes can be more powerful than direct subsidies,” he said.

Bosc said that DMOs needed to leverage existing data from each airline and offer insights into upcoming local economic developments like new mines or infrastructure projects that could drive corporate traffic.

“Local insights can provide airlines with the confidence they need to invest in new routes,” he said.

Natalia Rosa, project lead of the SADC Business Council Tourism Alliance, underscored the critical role of aviation in regional development and said aviation is not a luxury but the lifeblood of a modern regional economy.

“Improved air connectivity unlocks a range of benefits; it streamlines travel, opens doors for new tourism markets, and strengthens regional economic ties,” she said.

Gavin Eccles, head of vertical at BAE Ventures, emphasised tourism boards must be at the table with compelling cases backed by local market insights, travel trade ties and unique selling points that airlines often lack.

“Tourism boards should not only provide data but also offer a local perspective that airlines may not have,” said Eccles.

Jillian Blackbeard, CEO of Africa’s Eden Tourism Association, highlighted successful collaboration with Proflight through local stakeholder and trade backing, building airline confidence without major incentives.

“We worked closely with Proflight and local stakeholders to ensure that routes were supported by the trade and the private sector, which helped build confidence in the airline and led to successful route development without significant financial incentives,” said Blackbeard.

AviaDev said co-ordinated efforts leveraging DMOs’ destination expertise could unlock increased connectivity - a lifeline for Africa’s tourism economies long grounded by poor air links.