Air charters are gaining popularity in Africa, granting access to remote locations where lack of infrastructure previously limited tourism activity.
According to Rachel Muir, Charter Executive at Federal Airlines, the outlook for the industry is extremely positive and is seeing real growth. “Despite an increase in more scheduled flights to destinations where charters have traditionally been operating, the charter market is still growing,” she says. “A large contribution to this is that guests are taken to the actual destination and are not limited by the size of an aircraft, for example to taking them to the port of entry only.”
Raphael Kuuchi, Vice President for Africa at Iata, says not only charters, but African aviation overall, is poised for massive growth. “In the next 20 years Africa will have the fastest growing air transport market in the world, and will be three times what is today in just 50 years’ time,” he says. “But, it will not just happen and we are going to have to work at and take advantage of the opportunities that we are given.”
International charters are operating across the continent more and more, says Kuuchi. “The charter business is being driven by tourism as it allows regions to bring in people right to their doorstep even if there is no commercial air access or particularly good roads available.”
“The most popular routes we have found are from Mbombela to Livingstone in Zambia and back as well as from Mbombela to Cape Town and back,” says Muir. Other popular charters are from Livingstone in Zambia to Vilanculos and Beira in Mozambique as well as from Johannesburg to the Delta in Botswana.
Kuuchi says it is important for tourism to see the number of charter services in Africa increased.
The most challenging thing in the charter sector is permits, says Muir. “It takes time to get permits granted and they are not always guaranteed. Also problematic is the operating times of airports in the region. “But, we work around these to ensure we are moving our guests efficiently,” she says.
According to Muir smaller groups of only about six people at a time or families travelling together has become a trend in the charter business. Convenience of this way of travel is a large contributing factor.
The benefits are clearly there, says Kuuchi. Charters offer ease of access and are direct, eliminating unnecessary stops. Also, guests can travel at their own convenience and times, select their aircraft type and even catering. It also allows for larger amounts of luggage to be taken.