South Africa’s air transport sector reportedly supports around 490,000 jobs, including tourism-related employment, and contributes 3.5% (US$12 million) to the country’s gross domestic product.

These were some of the findings highlighted in a recent study entitled The Importance of Air Transport to South Africa’. The study was conducted by Oxford Economics on behalf of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA’s regional vice president for the Middle East and Africa said the study confirmed the air transport sector played a vital role in the country’s economy as it facilitated more than US$10 billion in exports, around US$140 billion in foreign direct investment and around US$9.2 billion in inbound leisure and business tourism for South Africa.

“With the country now in a recession it’s time to re-double efforts to promote South Africa as a destination for business, trade and tourism,” he said.

While carrying out the study, experts in the industry were surveyed. Some from the World Economic Forum said South Africa’s transport infrastructure quality score places the country first out of 37 African countries surveyed and 48th globally.

The country also ranked 19th out of 37 African countries for visa openness and ranked 17th out of 37 for cost competitiveness in the air transport industry. This was based on air ticket taxes, airport charges and value added tax.

The study also revealed that Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport was the country’s busiest with almost 20 million passengers passing through the airport every year.

“Affordable, safe and reliable air transport is crucial to economic growth,” Albakri said. “It promotes skills development and is a catalyst for jobs,” he added. “We urge the South African government to remove any impediments, including unnecessary red-tape and policies that hinder air connectivity and the trade, investment, tourism and job opportunities it facilitates and stimulates.”

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