As the world reopens, aviation will play a significant role in shaping the global economy.
This is especially true for South Africa, where tourism is a major driver of its economy and contributes R425-billion or 8.6% towards the GDP.
LIFT co-founder and chief executive Jonathan Ayache said the industry has shown resilience despite experiencing record lows during the pandemic.
"What we’ve learnt is that flexibility and the ability to adapt to the challenges presented within a post-pandemic operating environment is what will separate the surviving businesses in this vital sector from those that will succumb to the turbulence.
“It’s been almost a year since we launched LIFT, and things are going very well despite the uncertain environment. We are very excited to see domestic and international travel open up, but we must all be mindful that the pandemic is not over, waves are still a reality, and the focus needs to be firmly on offering customers great service, flexibility and giving them peace of mind when booking their travel,” he said.
Vaccinations, lockdowns and travel trends
Lockdown and travel restrictions will likely continue to be a facet of our daily lives for the foreseeable future. Wrenelle Stander, the newly appointed chief executive of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa, expects the domestic aviation markets in Southern Africa to only recover to 2019 levels by the year 2023. International travel is expected to get back to “normal” or pre-Covid levels by 2024.
“Adaptation is crucial. For example, when we look at countries like Israel, who despite making great efforts to drive vaccinations have had to adapt to the unexpected resurgence of infections, we are reminded of the unpredictability of the virus,” added Ayache.
Ayache believes innovation and rapid technological adoption will also play a vital role in getting global travel and tourism to pre-Covid levels. The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has re-emphasised the crucial need for digital solutions which will allow for the reopening of borders without quarantine. Iata stated that without these digitalising document-checking processes, the average processing time at airports worldwide might increase to eight hours if airport traffic returns back to pre-pandemic (2019) levels.
To date, digital travel passes have proven to be an imperative measure for those looking to travel abroad, but the lack of standardisation is creating mass confusion.
Ayache added that closer collaboration with the government to create a more sustainable operating environment for businesses was also vital.