OF BRIDGES AND BUB­BLES

Richard Holmes gets to the bot­tom of a po­ten­tial way to help the rav­aged tourism and avi­a­tion in­dus­tries, post-covid-19

Financial Mail - - LIFE -

ý As the lock­down slowly eases its grip on SA’S tourism in­dus­try, all eyes are on the skies for when — and how — our lo­cal avi­a­tion in­dus­try might bounce back.

Tourism sup­ports more than 1-mil­lion jobs, con­tribut­ing about 8% to GDP. And while level 3 of SA’S lock­down has al­lowed for lim­ited do­mes­tic flights, oner­ous re­stric­tions on who is al­lowed to travel have put a lid on de­mand.

“Avi­a­tion and tourism are so closely aligned. You need to open avi­a­tion to kick-start the tourism in­dus­try,” says Air­lines As­so­ci­a­tion of South­ern Africa CEO Chris Zweigen­thal.

Ac­cord­ing to the Board of Air­line Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of SA (Barsa), which rep­re­sents the in­ter­na­tional avi­a­tion in­dus­try in SA, the broader air trans­port sec­tor — in­clud­ing air­lines and its ex­tended sup­ply chain — are es­ti­mated to sup­port about $5.2bn of SA’S GDP, with spend­ing by for­eign tourists adding a fur­ther $4.3bn to the tally. A sec­tor sup­port­ing 70,000 di­rect jobs, and con­tribut­ing close on R170bn, is cer­tainly not to be ig­nored.

But since air­lines were first grounded in late-march the in­dus­try has been gut­ted by the overnight col­lapse of rev­enue, with many air­lines hav­ing ex­hausted their lim­ited cash re­serves.

“It is now crit­i­cal that air travel opens,” says Carla da Silva, Barsa chair and Air Mau­ri­tius re­gional man­ager for South­ern Africa and Latin Amer­ica.

“This sec­tor is in dire straits and the dis­as­trous sit­u­a­tion has re­sulted in thou­sands of South Africans los­ing their liveli­hoods.”

The larger ques­tion is not only when, or if, avi­a­tion should be opened, but rather how. And look­ing abroad of­fers a num­ber of ex­am­ples lo­cal tourism and avi­a­tion lead­ers are look­ing to em­u­late.

Bridge over trou­bled wa­ters

Iden­ti­fy­ing “air bridges” be­tween spe­cific coun­tries is a con­cept fast tak­ing hold abroad. In early-june one such bridge linked Spain’s Balearic is­lands and Ger­many, al­low­ing for thou­sands of Ger­man hol­i­day­mak­ers to visit with­out quar­an­tine or screen­ing. Ice­land has opened travel to Schen­gen coun­tries, with con­di­tions, while in early-june Sin­ga­pore es­tab­lished “fast-lanes” — with pre-de­par­ture screen­ing and the is­su­ing of a safe travel pass — to pro­mote busi­ness travel to spe­cific re­gions of China.

“It is im­por­tant for coun­tries to iden­tify low-, medium- and high-risk coun­tries,” notes Da Silva. “While the in­dus­try is

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