SAA and Cape tourism players seek growth on new routes


South African Airways and key players in the Western Cape tourism industry have identified fresh marketing opportunities on new routes the airline is developing and mechanisms for future co-operation.

This follows a round table discussion in Cape Town on July 5 hosted by Wesgro - the province's marketing, investment and trade promotion agency - after SAA recently unilaterally decided to axe the Cape Town-London Heathrow route, citing unprofitability. The move stung the local tourism industry, which criticised SAA for not having asked it to help save the route.

"It was a very constructive meeting," Wesgro CEO, Nils Flaatten, told SA Tourism Update. He said the meeting concluded that to grow business tourism to Cape Town and the Western Cape on SAA's routes from Brazil, Mumbai, Beijing, Australia and Africa would require the joint development, support and marketing of conventions, sports and other major events, plus finding ways to extend the benefits of these to the whole province.  Joint marketing activities supporting SAA Vacations, the airline's tour operator division, were also discussed. 

Senior representatives of SAA, the Western Cape provincial government, the City of Cape Town, Cape Town Tourism, Wesgro, SATSA, SAACI, Fedhasa, major hotel chains, conference and transport industry stakeholders attended the workshop. A joint statement released afterwards said participants concluded that more could be done to strengthen co-operation. Flaatten said similar meetings would henceforth be held every six months.

He said a key realisation was that, while SAA was responsible for airlift, the industry was responsible for creating the demand. "We will approach the top five outbound tour operators in our core markets in coming months (hand-in-hand with SA Tourism) and align our focus with that of SAA.

"While it doesn't look as if SAA will reinstate CPT-LHR in the foreseeable future, we will still need to look at how we can grow the demand. While the trend amongst international airlines is to develop hub and spoke aviation models, we as the industry must protect the reputation of Cape Town as a long-haul destination and devise a value tourism offering." To this end, said Flaatten, the industry would engage other international airlines serving Cape Town in similar discussions in coming months.

"Cape Town and the Western Cape are a crucial and integral part of our overall approach to marketing SAA and South Africa," said SAA GM Commercial, Theunis Potgieter. "We are seeing significant visitor growth from elsewhere in Africa and from South America, Asia and Australasia and we are responding accordingly by deploying our aircraft capacity to those growth markets." He said Indian visitor numbers to the Garden Route were increasing and visitors from across Africa were discovering Cape Town.

SAA plans similar workshops with tourism and business travel stakeholders in other South African regions in coming weeks and months. Click here for more news

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