Tourism and aviation – two sectors that go hand in hand – seem to be doing well despite the global financial crisis, and could even perform better if a couple of challenges were to be addressed urgently.
This emerged at the General Assembly of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) held recently in Cape Town, South Africa.
Two of such challenges are visa and air connectivity, according to South Africa’s tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.
In unpredictable Africa, sophisticated visa requirements discourage potential tourists, journalists, businessmen or any enthusiastic traveller from moving freely across the continent.
These conditions include the so-called letter of invitation, high cost of visa (up to 100 euros), hotel booking, certificate of vaccination, financial deposit at embassy, among others.
To remedy the situation, van Schalkwyk called for the introduction of e-visas or even m-visas – visas on mobile phones – which he said could significantly boost tourism volumes and job creation.
South Africa, Africa’s largest economy, is known all over Africa for its ‘nazi-like’ stance when it comes to delivering visas.
Businessmen, tourists or even adventurers from Nigeria and DRC, to name only a few, have been frustrated several times by South African embassies for their military-style handling of visas.
The second challenge is airlift, the minister said, adding that a simulation of 24 hours of air traffic demonstrates the challenges the world face to ensure that South-South travel reflects the new economic and political realities in this world.
“Because of the lack of air connectivity, African neighbours often become de facto long-haul destinations to each other,” he said.
Moon of the South can safely reveal that it can take up to 20 hours to reach, for instance, the Senegalese capital Dakar from Kinshasa or Nairobi. Destinations such as Bamako or Casablanca can sometimes be reached within three days from Johannesburg or Harare.
“Clearly, there is a major potential for the development of a South-South corridor that reflects contemporary trade and other economic realities,” the minister said.
Van Schalkwyk, who described these challenges as ‘out of the silo’, also mentioned hyper-connectivity and aviation’s current addiction to kerosene jet fuels.
“Already, the entire travel and tourism value chain relies on this seamless internet and mobile connectivity. But, let us not romanticise hyper-connectivity, as it also brings with it hyper-vulnerabilities,” he warned, adding that the world has to work harder than ever to control content.
Finally, he urged the aviation sector to break its addiction to kerosene jet fuels for the critical survival of long-haul tourism.
“I believe airlines with modern and fuel-efficient fleets, supported by cutting-edge airport and air traffic navigation infrastructure, could become leaders in the emerging low-carbon economy.”