Thursday, October 22, 2020

Air Botswana threatens to kick BTO out of travel routes partnership

If the national airline’s financial status quo remain as bad as it is despite strategic plans to reshape it, Air Botswana (AB) management will have no option but to shed its partnership with the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO).

It emerged at the ongoing Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies that AB is operating at a loss partly attributed to the tourism sector whose designated flying destinations attract less tourist travellers than anticipated.

“Some of these network routes do not add value to the airliner hence the loss of the organisation’s money and as such the current financial status we find ourselves entangled in,” revealed Acting AB General Manager Agnes Tsholofelo Khunwane on Thursday before the Statutory Body.

She was responding to Statutory Body member Phenyo Butale who wanted to know the working relationship between the two organisations around the air travel route partnership.

Some of the air travel routes initiated at the courtesy of BTO include Maun-Cape Town, Gaborone-Cape Town and Johannesburg-Maun which Khunwane argued were weighing heavily on the airliner’s purse.

She did not dispute the idea that to subsidise the travel routes to attract more tourist travellers while the two committed themselves to sharing the financial burden would help to recover losses.

“Should the financial status quo remain as it is Air Botswana will have no choice except to run commercially,” Khunwane said, referring to conducting business strictly without the current gentleman’s agreement form of partnership with BTO.

As part of daily operations, AB is committed to the facilitation of the tourism sector by means of providing air travel routes into the country only to incur heavy losses partly attributed to BTO.

The tourism sector is the second largest economic revenue earner, after the diamond industry.

While the Gaborone-Cape town route accounts for P13 million annual loss, the Johannesburg-Maun route stands at a P16-million loss giving AB sleeplessness nights.

Such a glaring financial situation has since forced AB to adopt a strategic plan for the year 2015-2020 aimed at re-fleeting the parastatal organisation and restructuring it to appeal to other users other than tourist travellers and also to revamp the national airliner.

“We have since engaged consultants to draw up a five-year strategic plan to come up with the type of aircrafts needed for the organisation. The plan is expected to be handed over on October 4,” Khunwane said.

She added that ageing aircrafts grounded because of malfunctions would be replaced with new ones.

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