Fouad Caunhye, Regional Manager, Emirates South Africa, talks about the airline's success at their stand at Africa's Travel Indaba. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA).

Most people attending Africa’s Travel Indaba 2019 gravitated towards the Emirates stand to get to experience their first class suite. Fouad Caunhye, Regional Manager, Emirates South Africa, shared some of the perks of flying with the airline while they grabbed their best selfies in the booth.

When he was done, I grabbed him for a quick chat.The very affable Caunhye said: “We’ve been operating in South Africa since 2009. I think it is long overdue to have this product presented… The Durban market has always been there and it’s been a very solid market. But, before introducing a product, you have to ensure there is some maturity to the market. In the 10 year operation so far, we can see that the demand has increased.”

During the seasonal increase from June 14 to August 2 this year, travellers from Durban will be able to enjoy the First Class suite on the airlines Boeing 777-300ER. The aircraft offers eight seats in First Class, 42 in Business Class and 310 seats in economy.

Caunhye says that exhibiting at the Travel Indaba was a no-brainer for them.

He explained: “We have been here, as a regular feature, over the last five years. Before, it was every odd year. There’s many many results and outcomes I would say, of the reach of Travel Indaba. The first one is the ability to showcase a product or products. From the window shoppers, who are the travel buyers, and the typical industry affiliates, who are stakeholders, as we have seen this morning at the breakfast, we remain the key fundamentals of our business associations here.

“But beyond and besides that, it’s also ensuring the widest distribution possible of a commercial reach, within commercial business avenues. I will explain it. Last week, we were at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai. This week’s it is Travel Indaba. A few weeks before that was the World Travel Market in London.  I think we are an important player and we are a humble player. We would like to also say, our commercial presence is firm in the markets that are important to us. And those are commercial statements that we are making about presence, consistency and durability.”

One of the ways in which they ensure they immerse themselves in the African market is to build campaigns around local big names.

Caunhye added: “Travel Indaba allows us to do product interactions and get a sense of the culture and extend the cultural reach beyond the idea of having a product that is global, in a sense, but something that can be more regionalised, hence our presence here.”

To date, the airline covers 160 destinations around the world, flying to more than 70 countries. He singled out Thailand and Dubai as the most popular choice for South African travellers to date.

He shared: “It’s a very eclectic choice. The destinations that are more appealing to South Africans is conditioned by the depth of a wallet and accessibility to travel documents.  Spain has become a massive hit, so has Portugal, Greece and Italy. It goes without saying that the UK, France and Germany remain the usual regulars.”

“The network keeps expanding,” he said. “Durban was, at the time, the 101st destination on the network.”

Fouad Caunhye, Regional Manager, Emirates South Africa, talks about the airline's success at their stand at Africa's Travel Indaba. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA)

Of course, the appeal of KwaZulu-Natal, which includes its tropical climate, cuisine, a mix of cultures and rich history, continues to grow as the landscape welcomes newer attractions.

He noted: “So hence the evolution of the place and our ability to adapt to that evolution tells us the time is right for ensuring that the right product is introduced. The 250 000 passengers in and out of Durban over the last year can be increased further.

“We remain true to the vision and the commitment we had, which was about connecting Durban to the world but also ensuring that direct and indirect jobs link to our operation in Durban.”