Accra, Aug. 24 (GNA) – Mr. Chris Diaz, the Marketing Director of Kenya Airways, says African airlines have a critical role to play in opening up the continent for trade and tourism.
He said this would call for increased cooperation among African states and airlines to boost intra-African trade and overcome the challenges of Africa’s aviation industry.
Speaking in an interview with the GNA on the sidelines of a meeting with Chartered Institute of Marketers (CIM) Ghana, during the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Conference in Accra, Mr. Diaz said currently, about 60 million tourists come into Africa.
This number, he said, was expected to grow in the coming years, with important opportunities in the aviation industry.
He stressed the importance of encouraging travel and tourism within Africa.
« African airlines like Kenya Airways, Ethiopian, Air Maroc, South African Airlines; it is important that every one flies. The middle class is growing strongly in Africa and we are encouraged to give very competitive rates so that everyone can connect intra-Africa to see each other’s countries, to learn about and to experience the beautiful opportunities we have, » he stated.
Mr. Diaz said African airlines like Kenya Airways could do this by offering competitive flight experiences and high quality services through their hubs, while also connecting Africa into the world.
He noted that Kenya Airways was integrated in a way to draw investors into Africa, adding that it is the only African member of the SkyTeam Global Alliance, and is able to bring about 1000 destinations into Africa and had won some global awards as a result.
« Ghana is a very important market for Kenya Airways and as the West African sub-region continues to develop, a lot of its citizens travel across countries to buy goods and products in China, Dubai, Bangkok, Far East, Hong Kong and these are brought into Africa very regularly on Kenya airways aircraft, » he said, adding » we are thus able to develop trade and to promote economic development for the African economy. »
Mr. Diaz said Ghana was a very special market because a lot of investors were coming into Ghana via Kenya Airways. The airline currently flies daily into Accra with a Boeing 737-800. It was however considering increasing capacity on the route according to growth in the market.
This, he said, would be done not only by increasing frequencies of the flight but also bringing the bigger B787 Dreamliner aircraft, which would provide more seats and cargo space.
« Kenya Airways has invested heavily in new aircraft and has the youngest fleet of aircraft in Africa. We are also expanding customer service and customer care with our new airport and new lounges, » he said.
He challenged African states to work together and support each other, predicting that intra-Africa trade would be the biggest opportunity for success and growth.
He said in order to better brand and market Africa, it was important to build partnerships based on the many opportunities that were presented by its diversity and because of the cultural connection between Africa and the rest of the world.
He said: « The world would like to come to Africa for its music, fashion, fantastic icons and attractions in Africa. We have fantastic mountains, beautiful beaches, islands and wildlife, fantastic people who are very hospitable and who welcome visitors very warmly and are truly African in terms of welcoming our guests. »
He noted however that the most important was to have a very solid marketing plan, and very strong partnerships between the Tourism Boards of African countries, with UNWTO and with the African Union, to be able to have synergy and strategic strength in terms of investments, marketing Africa.
He suggested the organization of an Africa event or presentation where Africa would be showcased as one, with the different countries all representing one brand, adding « this will mean actually showing the world that we are united ».
In order to address the challenges facing African countries, especially security challenges, Mr. Diaz said « we need to really strengthen our security through inter-governmental cooperation, with authorities supporting each other with intelligence, robust security measures, and most important for airlines is to cooperate and work together as partners to address the challenges. »