By Friday Nwosu
South African Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom has said Africa countries could create 155,000 jobs and generate $1.3 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) if the countries are willing to implement the Open Skies Agreement for the continent.
Open skies refers to a bilateral or multilateral air service agreement that liberalizes the rules for international aviation markets and minimizes government intervention.
Hanekom who spoke at the opening of Indaba 2016, in Durban, stated that if one quarter of the countries in the continent were to implement the open skies for Africa it will facilitate greater air access between African countries and with untold benefit for the tourism industry in continent.
He stated that South Africa received over 1million visitors in January which is a record recovery for the country.
He said Indaba is the premier African travel and tourism show, with exhibits from 18 countries on the continent this year.
“It expresses what the soul of Africa is all about. This is what it means to share what we have, and to work together to get what we want. This is how we exist, through the existence of those around us. We are bound together by our common past, and our future is intertwined.
“If one quarter of African countries were to implement the Open Skies for Africa decision and facilitate greater air access between our countries, an additional 155,000 jobs and USD 1.3 billion in GDP could be generated, with obvious benefits for tourism.”
“Indaba links every person in this room to each other. We feel a powerful sense of belonging when we come together to move tourism forward.
“ It starts with the people who partner with SA Tourism to put on this great show. During the next few days, business partnerships will be forged between product owners and buyers. And after the stands have been packed away, it will be about how our governments throughout the continent partner with industry and communities, and how we join forces to receive the next wave of tourists.
“Indaba is all about partnerships. Last year we announced our intention to find a partner to make Indaba even more impactful. I am told that we are at an advanced stage of negotiations with a prospective partner.
“Today, the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre reflects the vibrant culture of Africa. What a great way to commemorate Africa Month, when the 1.2 billion people of Africa get together to celebrate our cultural heritage, our arts and music, and the creativity of our people,”