PE airport aims for take-off

Strategy to ramp up numbers of international passengers after upgrade

The Port Elizabeth International Airport has the potential to attract international airlines, despite its having one of the lowest records of traffic in the country.
According to the Airports Company of South Africa’s (Acsa) 2017-18 financial year report, 1.6 million passengers made use of the airport, an increase of 3.7% over the 2016-17 financial year.
Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport retains the highest numbers in both international and domestic activity in the whole of Africa, with an overall passenger number of 21.23 million.
Port Elizabeth International Airport came in fourth, after OR Tambo, Cape Town with a growth of 16% and Durban’s King Shaka with a 7.7% rise.
But Acsa corporate affairs senior manager Senzeni Ndebele said the top three international airports served larger urban areas than the Port Elizabeth airport and that despite the general muted economic growth in the past financial year, which had put pressure on consumer spending, the Bay airport had performed reasonably well.
However, since its upgrading into an international airport in 2012 it is yet to attract airlines serving global markets and this has been the biggest challenge.
“There is great potential for Port Elizabeth International Airport to attract international airlines to the region and to grow the passenger base,” Ndebele said.
Tourism has been earmarked as the main driving tool to attract international markets and to then improve growth.
“Acsa has begun establishing a programme of coordinated and integrated marketing initiatives which will involve tourism bodies and provincial and local governments,” Ndebele said.
One of its biggest Bay partners is Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism.
“We admit we have faced a lot of challenges in the past few years but we are working on a strategy to better serve tourists so as to increase the numbers using the PE airport,” NMBT chief executive Mandlakazi Skefile said.
“We have a good relationship with Acsa to make sure we attract more tourists and we have noticed a great potential in the Indian and Chinese market, which we hope to attract more going forward.”Skefile said Port Elizabeth owed its largest numbers of tourists to the UK, Germany and Netherlands.
The OR Tambo-to-PE route is rated seventh of Africa’s top 10 busiest routes and Skefile said the aim was to capitalise more on this connection.
“We understand that tourists visit different cities and towns around the country, mostly landing at OR Tambo.
“So we would like to encourage international passengers to connect via PE on their way to Cape Town. This would have a great impact on our international standing,” Skefile said.
Despite its failure to attract international airlines, Acsa hails the airport for its significant contribution to the regional economy.
“We have quantified the precise effect the airport has on our regional economy beyond the impact of holiday and business tourism generally.”
Research conducted by Acsa – commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – shows that Port Elizabeth International Airport contributed R236-million to the economy last year while the 418 direct jobs supported by the airport contributed R74-million in income spent by employees in the region.
PwC said that the direct contribution to the economy per departing passenger was R201 at the Port Elizabeth airport.
Ndebele said there was therefore great potential for the airport to attract international airlines to the region and to grow the passenger base.
“The direct value added per departing passenger by OR Tambo International Airport is R431,” Ndebele said.
The nine Acsa airports processed a record-breaking 40 million-plus passengers in the latest financial year, with international arrivals increasing by 3.68% while international departures rose by 2.1% over the previous year.
Passenger growth of 3.78% was recorded by the country’s six regional airports, with the George Airport standing out with an increase of 8.5%, escalating beyond 800 000 passengers for the first time...

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