Landing more airline routes in South Africa will be a win for the tourist industry in the future, says Avukile Mabombo, Group Marketing Manager for Protea Hotels by Marriott. Picture: Pixabay

South Africa is becoming an attractive destination for international travellers. 

Stats SA’s Tourism Satellite Account for South Africa report released in 2018 revealed that in 2016 the sector directly contributed 2.9% to South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP). In terms of job creation, it outperformed other key local industries, adding just over 40 000 net new jobs to the economy between 2012 and 2016. 

According to Grant Thornton, the tourism sector supports one in every 12 jobs in South Africa and, at a time when job creation and economic development are front of mind for the government and private sector, the tourism industry has been earmarked by the government for high growth.

Air travel is recognised as a key component in driving development in the sector. As the World Tourism Organisation notes, innovation and expansion of the air transport industry have been driving factors for the exponential growth in international tourism arrivals seen over the last few decades.

As recently as April 2019, United Airlines was given the go-ahead to launch their new non-stop route between Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, New York, and Cape Town. Australian Qantas airlines is considering Cape Town as a destination on one of the company’s planned new ultra-long commercial flights, set to touch down in 2022.

Projections by global independent advisory firm, Grant Thornton, say United Airlines’ move to link North America to Cape Town could add R283 million in direct tourism spending and 890 jobs to the Cape economy in the first year of operation. Estimates are that spend could increase by R425 million by 2021.

Leading the way in South Africa is the Cape Town Air Access initiative. A public-private partnership, the project mandate is to develop and maintain air routes in and out of Cape Town International Airport through route retention, expansion and new route development. In 2017, the airport achieved a 20% growth in international passengers, and 53% increase in international cargo.

“An increase in air travel is a win for the entire travel sector,” says Avukile Mabombo, Group Marketing Manager for Protea Hotels by Marriott. “In recent years, both Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines have undertaken ambitious growth strategies. These have created market opportunities for businesses across their respective regions that facilitate leisure and business travel. For instance, Dubai airport, a major airline hub, offers passengers the option of a transit hotel and provides an attractive, unique solution to travellers in transit between destinations.

“Every year large numbers of travellers use South Africa as a hub for connecting to other parts of the world. For many travellers from the African continent, South Africa provides a convenient way to quickly access other regions in sub-Saharan Africa that would otherwise be difficult to reach.

“Any initiative to boost air travel to South Africa is a win for the tourist industry. Both Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates have shown that regarding air travel as a key driving factor in boosting tourism leads to innovation and sustained economic growth in the long term,” he said.