The province of Gauteng is seeking to build on the success of its collaborative route development partnership – the Gauteng Air Access Network (GAAN) – to enhance domestic, regional and international air connectivity, including the establishment of direct flights between OR Tambo International Airport (JNB) and the Indian cities of Delhi and Mumbai.
Established in 2021, GAAN is a partnership between various public and private sector stakeholders, including the Gauteng Department of Economic Development, the Gauteng Tourism Authority, the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency, the City of Ekurhuleni, Airports Company South Africa (Acsa), the Board of Airline Representatives of Southern Africa, South African Tourism and the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA).
Speaking at a recent stakeholder engagement at the SAA Aviation Museum at Rand Airport, Department of Economic Development MEC Tasneem Motara highlighted the various achievements of the project to date.
Since the start of 2022, the province has inaugurated or reestablished direct flights from Frankfurt, Brussels, Beijing-Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Perth. Regionally, Eswatini Air and Zambia Airways launched direct routes into JNB, while Air Algérie also started flights from Algiers. In addition to the recommencement of LATAM and South African Airways’ São-Paolo-JNB flights, the air access network is in talks with Air India to establish direct flights to Delhi and/or Mumbai.
South African Tourism has identified India as one of its top three key emerging source markets, and in 2023 the agency’s Middle East, India and South-East Asia hub has carried out a marketing blitz including multi-city roadshows and training programmes aimed at Indian travel agents.
“We are certainly targeting airlift from India. Airlift from China also remains challenging, so an increase in frequencies from Air China is a priority,” said Motara.
In addition, GAAN is working with Lanseria International Airport to assist with SADC regional flights and the bolstering of a domestic portfolio of flights.
Speaking to the economic importance of new international flights, Motara pointed to Acsa’s estimation that every regular long-haul air service supported approximately 3 000 direct and indirect jobs.
"This is why it is so important for us to be able to increase our international connectivity. Imagine the multiplier effect on the economy and job creation when we are able to add several new international routes,” she said.
Motara said during the first quarter of 2023, Gauteng accounted for 43% of South Africa’s overall arrivals (839 000), resulting in an economic contribution of R10.4 billion (€520m) and 11.4 million bed nights.
Recognising the importance of air access, the TBCSA has contributed R5m (€250 000) in funding for the GAAN project.
“When we talked about air access some years back, we didn’t just talk, we acted on it. And the reason is simple: South Africa has an ambitious target to reach 21 million tourist arrivals by 2035. And to achieve this, we need to act,” said TBCSA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.
Tshivhengwa said that the funds would be beneficial for marketing the destination to international airlines and incentivising them to establish and sustain routes.
“We need to ensure that routes are sustainable and that passengers are continually flowing into South Africa. We want to see more of this and welcome even more partners to come on board to make sure we capitalise on the opportunity.”