GEORGE NEWS - It is positive news for George that the Middle Eastern market is growing strongly, especially in the family and luxury market segments. However, purely having the connections does not mean that the passengers will just come.
This is how Joan Shaw, manager of George Tourism reacted to an announcement by Qatar Airways last week that it has signed an interline agreement with FlySafair, further connecting South Africans to Qatar Airways' rapidly expanding global network via Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.
The agreement with Safair will provide 10 domestic connections including Port Elizabeth International Airport, East London Airport, and George Airport.
Shaw said George needs to do strategic marketing within these segments to promote the cities' family friendly and high-end facilities and work closely together with the cities' products. For example, Redberry Farm receives many visitors from the UAE already and also exports strawberries there.
"This helps to reinforce the brand, and create the demand for George and the Garden Route at large. The fact that Safair has paired up with Qatar Airways, and Airlink with Emirates, is a good indication that their markets are on the rise for South Africa. We have already noticed this in George and the market has been on our radar for about 18-24 months now. We will definitely include the Middle East as an emerging market in our new strategy, but none of this will be relevant if our borders are not opened to international travellers in the near future. We hope that while keeping all protocols in place, the borders will be opened not only to emerging markets, but also our traditional markets like Germany and the UK that are our 'bread-and-butter' markets," she said.
Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) anticipates that the tourism hubs of Port Elizabeth, East London and George will be further opened up for international tourism following the signing of interline agreements between local airlines and two international carriers.
According to a statement by the company, the interline agreement between Emirates Airlines and Airlink will allow travellers from Dubai to Johannesburg and Cape Town to connect up to 20 destinations such as Port Elizabeth, East London and George.
The interline agreement between Qatar Airways and FlySafair will further connect South Africans to the airline's global network via Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. The agreement with FlySafair will provide 10 domestic connections for Qatar Airways passengers including to Port Elizabeth International Airport, East London Airport, and George Airport.
Senzeni Ndebele, senior manager of corporate affairs at Acsa, said the timing of the interline agreements means it will be simpler for international tourists to get to coastal tourism hubs.
"With the summer season almost upon us and the pressing need to boost recovery in the tourism sector, Airports Company South Africa warmly welcomes this interline agreement. We wish both airlines every success in the coming months," said Ndebele.
"We look forward to further collaborative initiatives among regional tourism stakeholders that will re-build the sector over the next few years."
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