Aviation sector must embrace technology

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THE aviation industry must adapt to market changes and embrace new technologies to enhance operations and passenger experience in the post-coronavirus era, a top industry expert has said.

Winnie Muchanyuka, the South African Airways country manager for Zimbabwe, said the whole aviation sector should work together to bring down costs.

“Airlines have to relaunch themselves in the post-Covid-19 period to ensure that air travel remains affordable since passengers are coming from a low base,” she said during the fourth edition of a virtual Economic Development Outlook-New Normal symposium hosted by Global Renaissance Investments.

“We need to strike a balance and find ways of cutting costs while at the same time allowing businesses to thrive.”
The latest development comes at a time Africa’s travel and tourism industry has lost US$55 billion due to the closure of borders to limit the spread of coronavirus.

On a continent where safaris are a powerful tourist magnet, the sector has been badly hit by lockdowns that shuttered air, land and sea borders.

“The impact is really severe,” Amani Abou-Zeid, African Union commissioner, said. “We are talking here about US$55 billion lost within three months in a year when we were supposed to see an increase in travel and air transport,” she warned.

Despite a steady rise in coronavirus cases, countries across Africa are forging ahead with plans to resume air traffic.
A handful of states re-opened their borders last week, including Zambia and Sierra Leone. Senegal has announced the resumption of international air travel from July 15.

“As we are going to open… we are also now pushing for intra-African tourism,” Abou-Zeid said, calling for lower taxes, reduced ticket fees and visa facilitation to encourage “Africans to see Africa.”

She hoped the reopening of the skies would “cushion some of the serious impacts on … air transport and tourism.”
Africa has recorded more than 420 000 coronavirus cases and over 10 000 deaths.

Meanwhile, calls are being made for Zimbabwe to increase investment in the transport and logistics sector as part of measures to revive the economy from the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown.

“More investment into the transport sector is necessary, especially now when people are going back to work,” Dewa Sastrawan, Indonesian Ambassador to Zimbabwe said.

He also highlighted the importance of observing health standards that are necessary to limit the spread of the virus be it in passenger transport systems or cargo.

“As the economy reopens, it is important to ensure adequate steps are taken to protect people as they move. This is why it’s important to ensure there is sufficient and efficient transport system and logistics, not only for people but to enhance trade at all levels,” he said.

Sastrawan added that the public private partnership (PPP) model could be ideal to improve the sector and this had been used in his country not only for building transport infrastructure, but also extended to the medical field.

Prior Covid-19, the government had already identified an efficient transport system as enablers for economic development, be it road, rail and air transport systems.

Tafadzwa Chaduka, a chartered engineer, said there was a need to look at transport and infrastructure from the perspective of the end user and its importance in enhancing economic activity in the country and across borders.

Producers of perishables for instance horticulture require fast and efficient transport systems for their produce.
“We develop infrastructure for the user, do they have confidence to use for instance that road, rail system or air,” he quipped.

According to the 2020 Zimbabwe Infrastructure Programme, quality transport is crucial as it efficiently connects firms to markets, for inputs, products and technologies, whilst also reducing the cost of production and enhancing competitiveness on domestic and international markets.

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