SA Tourism plans to replicate Cape Town’s successful air access strategy to canvass direct international flights for Durban and KZN, says CEO, Sisa Ntshona.

This follows SA Tourism signing a Memorandum of Understanding at a ceremony at Cape Town International Airport today (August 31), which sees it becoming an official member of Cape Town Air Access, a partnership between key role players that actively lobbies for direct air routes in and out of Cape Town. Other partners include the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism, Wesgro, the City of Cape Town, Airports Company South Africa and Cape Town Tourism.

According to Wesgro, the success of Cape Town Air Access has resulted in a 27% growth in international arrivals to Cape Town for the first half of 2017. Since its inception in February last year, Cape Town Air Access has facilitated 10 new direct routes and 11 route expansions, adding more than 650 000 seats to the destination and resulting in Cape Town International Airport in 2016 reaching the 10m passengers mark for the first time.

Cape Town also recently signed a partnership agreement with New York and is working on gaining direct flights from New York or Miami, while negotiations are under way for direct flights from Austria, according to shadow Tourism Minister, James Vos.

“These successes must be replicated in other South African cities,” he told the Tourism, Hotel Investment & Networking Conference (THINC) Africa 2017 in Cape Town yesterday (August 30). “SA Tourism is going replicate the strategy in other South African cities with international airports,” Vos said.

Ntshona told Tourism Update: “We will do similar canvassing for Durban and KZN. We want to know some of the lessons that have been learned so that we can amplify the same strategy at our other international airports.” He said the strategy would differ from airline to airline, but would include incentives such as reduced landing fees or airport taxes, or inclusions in SAT’s international itineraries. “Most importantly, we are looking for sustainable services. We may have to invest in order to develop a route, but once developed, it will run by itself,” he said. 

Part of the strategy would also be to encourage more inter-South African connectivity. “One of the things on the table is to bring back midnight flights to make sure we get more bums on seats,” he said.