The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on the South African government to support the air transport industry. The aim is to help other industries such as travel and tourism recover following the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the medical emergency, South Africa saw air transport contribute billions to the economy of the nation.
Between 2017 and 2019, air transport’s contribution to the economic well-being of the South African economy fell from US$9.4 billion to US$7.6 billion in gross value, according to IATA. This figure represents 3.2 % of South Africa’s overall gross domestic product (GDP). Also, when considering the number of jobs it supported, it went from directly supporting 472,000 jobs to 364,000 jobs.
Passenger traffic in South Africa is way down
Compared to 2019, air passenger traffic to and from South Africa fell 84% while domestic air traffic was down 69% due to restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite domestic flights returning in June of 2020, the restoration of international flights has been a slow process. As of October 2021, 27% fewer routes are being served, while the number of daily and weekly flights to South Africa is down 52%.
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With the South African economy suffering, the government is looking to facilitate the recovery of aviation-related industries, such as travel and tourism. They also hope to unlock the job opportunities and other economic benefits that tourism creates. When speaking about how important tourism is to the South African economy, in a statement published on September 30, 2021, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and Middle East Kamil Al Awadhi said:
“South Africa’s air transport and tourism sector’s contribution to GDP all but evaporated with the COVID-19 crisis, which coincided with the closure of one airline and the deep restructuring of two others. In 2019 aviation supported 364,000 jobs in South Africa. Because of COVID-19, about 298,000 of those jobs have been put at risk. It’s a significant impact for over 80% of jobs to be lost if connectivity is not restored. As South Africa’s foreign trade and tourist markets begin coming back online, it is crucial that steps are taken to ensure no more jobs or opportunities are lost.”
South Africa needs to support aviation
The main priorities needed to support and sustain a meaningful recovery of air transport and aviation as a whole in South Africa include the following:
Giving money and support to the South African air transport industry to help it fulfill its potential as an economic provider and job creator. According to the IATA statement, besides giving cash and financial guarantees to airlines, both state-owned and private, the South African government needs to fulfill its role as an economic provider and job creator.
The South African government has several options at its disposal when it comes to supporting aviation which includes:
- Cash and financial guarantees
- Waivers and discounts on user charges and taxes on air travel
- Wage subsidies
To help facilitate a recovery post-COVID-19 the South African government need to adopt a digital platform for testing and vaccination certificate. When passenger numbers start to increase, managing heath concerns digitally will go a long way in helping to control queuing and crowding at airports. IATA says that using its travel pass and the African Union’s Trusted Travel Pass are efficient ways of verifying traveler health credentials.
IATA has also urged the government in South Africa to grant operational licenses for new routes while also increasing the number of frequencies on existing routes.
IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and Middle East Kamil Al Awadhi, added:
“The prolonged absence of a functioning South African International Air Services Licensing Council is exacerbating the crisis by preventing new routes and competition, further curtailing options for international travelers, inhibiting trade and delaying the creation of jobs.”
More people in Africa need to get vaccinated
With low vaccination rates across the entire African continent, the economic recovery from COVID-19 is at risk. As more countries lift travel restrictions for those vaccinated, the freedom of movement will be limited until the number of people vaccinated increases. Currently, according to IATA figures, only 13.9% of South Africa’s population is fully vaccinated.
What do you think about IATA’s thoughts on South Africa? Please tell us what you think in the comments.