Regional travel in Africa might take a longer time to recover if the requirement by various countries for air travel is anything to go by.
With the easing of border closures, a major inhibitor to the recovery of regional travel in Africa is that most countries require a PCR Covid-19 test, which is expensive and can make it unaffordable for many travellers, according to Bradley Gordon, head of aviation finance for Africa at Investec.
According to news24.comIt is also not helped by the lack of standardisation in terms of vaccine certificates and vaccine passports, for example.
This echoes a call by Willy Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), that cheaper Covid-19 antigen tests are the key to cost-effective and convenient testing regimes.
“Governments should pay for testing, so it does not become an economic barrier to travel. There is also lot of work to do to simplify entry requirements,” Walsh said at the opening of IATA’s annual general meeting in Boston on Monday.
“Testing results for UK arrivals demonstrate that travellers are not adding risk to the local population. This is why we can say with confidence that flying is not the risk.”
In order for airlines in Africa to be sustainable going forward, it has become more critical than ever to have the right size fleet, both in terms of aircraft numbers and type of aircraft, as well as operating the correct routes in terms of demand, according to Gordon.
The right size workforce and safety measures to create customer confidence are also important in the aviation industry, which has been hard-hit by Covid-19 travel bans.
One area in which Gordon sees potential for aviation in Africa is air cargo. With the growth in e-commerce during the pandemic, the demand for services like next-day delivery and express freight has increased.
“One of the fundamental systemic shifts due to the pandemic will be that many customers previously not exposed to e-commerce, became familiar with using it. This will drive the growth of air freight in Africa,” says Gordon.
“Aviation is still the fastest and most efficient form of travel and serves as a crucial link to stimulate trade, bring people closer together and create jobs.”
For him it is important to create an environment that facilitates rather than inhibits this growth. Local and global cooperation and standardisation are key elements in the process.
“There are opportunities for new partnerships and innovation so airlines and companies can emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. Despite the challenges due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Africa’s aviation sector is showing promising signs of recovery and, over the longer term, its prospects look healthy,” he says.
“Domestic and intra-African regional aviation is driving the initial sector recovery. In September domestic travel in South Africa reached about 67% of September 2019 levels based on the number of flights. At the same time, the domestic market is susceptible to changes in lockdown levels. In July this year, when a harsher lockdown was implemented for example, domestic travel was only 35% of pre-pandemic levels.”
Being so susceptible to lockdown restrictions and Covid-19 waves of infection, it puts strain on aviation businesses’ ability to plan, creating a big risk factor.
“It must, therefore, be about creating a standardised approach to bring back the confidence of customers to book travel in advance,” in advance.