The CEO of one of the world’s leading hotel chains has welcomed the launch of AviaDev Africa – the inaugural conference to determine future air connectivity – and called for even closer cooperation between the hotel and airline industries.
Wolfgang M. Neumann, President and CEO of The Rezidor Hotel Group, will be participating at the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (‘AHIF’), on the panel discussing tourism infrastructure in Africa. AHIF, the premier hotel investment conference, which runs parallel with AviaDev Africa, will be taking place on 4-6 October in Kigali, Rwanda. It brings together top-level international investors, business leaders, industry experts, government ministers and officials, from around the globe.
AviaDev visitors will be able to meet and network with 30 airlines, 40 airports and 500-plus delegates in 1,000 meetings.
The two conferences will provide a platform for airports, airlines, governments and tourism authorities to plan future air connectivity in Africa and to discuss those plans with the hospitality industry. They will also be able to discuss the main issues confronting economic growth in the region that have been recently compounded by the threat of terrorism and the outbreak of Ebola.
Matthew Weihs, Bench Events Managing Director, said: “Hosting these two co-ordinated events provides a unique opportunity for everyone involved in the aviation and hotel industries. We have some exceptional speakers, as well as plenty of opportunities for networking and forming mutually beneficial partnerships.”
Both conferences have been organised by Bench events. They take place at a time when data produced by the International Air Transport Association (‘IATA’) has predicted strong growth for Africa, which will include seven of the top ten fastest growing aviation markets.
Wolfgang M. Neumann said: “The success of airlines and hotels are inextricably linked. The two industries have worked closely together for decades and it’s important that this dialogue is maintained. We keep a close eye on what’s happening with new routes and flights as these are ultimately a reflection of consumer demand.”
Neumann said that Rezidor has seen a surge in growth in Africa “more than anywhere else in the world,” and added: “Scheduling a new airline route development conference alongside the Africa Hotel Investment Forum is a smart move and bound to attract more decision makers to shape the future of travel in Africa, and facilitate a meaningful discussion on the issues and opportunities in the region.”
Bench Events has outlined three key areas that could help the continent’s aviation and tourism industries achieve their full potential, in the face of Africa’s broad economic challenges which include falling commodity prices, slowing consumer consumption and lower growth.
Reducing aviation fuel taxes
Industry insiders say the fuel tax, set by governments in Africa, is too high and is stifling economic growth. Costs are being passed on to passengers, keeping travel numbers low.
Matthew Weihs said: “Air fuel in Africa can cost up to 2.5 times the world average. The low oil price has undoubtedly assisted the growth of air transport worldwide and many airlines have enjoyed a good 2015 and 2016 but aviation is not a money-spinner. So surely now is the time for more enlightened taxation policies including a reduction in taxes on fuel to help aviation and hence commerce flourish in Africa.”
Resolving airline revenue repatriation
In June, IATA called on four African governments – Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt and Angola – to ensure airlines are able to repatriate revenues owed to them. The concern is that a shortage of dollars, because of a fall-off in oil revenues, will make airlines increasingly nervous about retrieving funds owed to them, resulting in route closures. Matthew said: “There’s no easy solution to this issue, but it could have catastrophic consequences for aviation markets and set them back many years.’
Developing a single African passport
This would offer visa-free access to passport holders from the 54 member states in The African Union. The aim is to have the passport fully implemented by 2020. The first recipients would be heads of state, government ministers and permanent representatives.
Behramjee Ghadially, Senior Manager Route Network Planning, Arik Air, who will be at AviaDev, concluded: ‘Without investment in infrastructure and hotel beds, there is no need for air services. AviaDev will bring together these two communities for the benefit of Africa.”
AHIF and AviaDev take place at the Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre in Kigali from 4-6 October 2016.