Aviation plays a central role in supporting the tourism sector, with over 54% of international tourists now travelling by air, KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental MEC Sihle Zikalala said at the Airlines Association of Southern Africa’s forty-seventh annual general assembly on Friday.
Tourism, he noted, was particularly important in many developing countries, where it played a key role in economic development strategies and in creating jobs.
Zikalala pointed out that job creation in the tourism industry could benefit significantly from the further development of South Africa’s airports and through increasing the country’s route connectivity.
Further, many areas of the air transport sector require a highly qualified workforce involving a significant amount of employee training.
“One must also emphasise that growth, especially in the aerospace sector, can help drive innovation and skills development in countries that have not normally been associated with aircraft manufacturing, such as South Africa, to some extent,” Zikalala stated.
He added that the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government contributed to the development and upskilling of youth in the aviation industry.
“In 2014, we adopted the KwaZulu-Natal Integrated Aerotropolis Strategy and we have since neared the finish line in adopting the Durban Aerotropolis Master Plan, where we essentially envisage an airport city centred around King Shaka International Airport.”
He pointed out, however, that the multibillion-rand development anchored around the airport and within the confines of Dube TradePort special economic zone over the next 50 years was a mammoth task, requiring a range of skills.
Both the Provincial Growth and Development Plan (PGDP) and the province’s aerotropolis strategy emphasise the need for skills development of KwaZulu-Natal citizens, especially the youth, to meet the future demands of the province’s economy in general.
One of the ten strategic levers of the aerotropolis strategy is knowledge support, he said, adding that, to achieve this, government has identified the need to establish an institution to deal with the skills gap for the development of the Durban Aerotropolis.
“To address this, we are in the process of creating an Aerotropolis Institute Africa (AIA),” he noted.
He added that some of the key focus areas of the proposed AIA would include aviation economics, air cargo logistics, airport management and airport environmental planning.
Zikalala also pointed out that the province has embarked on an ambitious programme to rejuvenate its regional airports.
“Our plan is to improve accessibility of our regional economies to both domestic and international travellers. Moreover, regional airports play a critical role in emergency medical, disaster, fire and rescue flights, freight aircraft, fuel supply to aircraft, pilot training, firefighting training, anti-poaching exercises, tourism and other aviation activities.”