International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Tuesday called on the South African government to amp up its support for the aviation industry in order to boost the economy, offer job opportunities, and create economic growth.
The IATA stressed that such support would facilitate the recovery of industries supported by aviation such as travel and tourism and unlock the job opportunities and other economic benefits they provide.
According to Kamil Al Awadhi, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and Middle East, 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,” Awadhi said in a statement on Tuesday.
“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.
“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.”
The IATA added that key priorities to support and sustain the recovery of South Africa’s air transport and tourism sectors include: financial support and relief to the air transport industry; adopting an inter-operable digital platform for COVID-19 testing and vaccination certificates; and increasing intra-Africa connectivity.
IATA said, “South Africa’s entire airline industry requires support and financial relief if it is to fulfil its role as an economic enabler and job creator. Government has several levers at its disposal to assist all carriers and service providers, both public and privately-owned. Besides cash or financial guarantees, they include reductions, waivers and discounts on user charges and taxes on air travel and aviation and wage subsidies.
“As passenger numbers increase in the recovery, digitally managing travel health credentials will be essential to avoid queuing and crowding at airports. IATA Travel Pass and the African Union’s Trusted Travel Pass are both tools that can help governments efficiently and conveniently verify traveler health credentials.
“The African Union’s Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is intended to unlock travel and economic benefits within the continent. An IATA-commissioned econometric study found that the full implementation of SAATM across the continent would create 14,500 new jobs for South Africa and add $283.9 million to its GDP.”
The IATA also called on the South African government to ensure effective functioning of the South African International Air Service Licensing Council in order to enable granting of new operating licenses for air services and increased frequencies on existing routes.
With low vaccination rates across Africa, the continent and its people are vulnerable and the economic recovery from COVID-19 is at risk. Moreover, with more countries lifting travel restrictions for those vaccinated, the freedom of movement will be limited until vaccines are universally available. With 13.9% of South Africa’s population fully vaccinated, the challenge is particularly acute.
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