Saturday, October 24, 2020

Aviation sector asked why it is not soaring smoothly

The aviation sector was on Friday challenged to show cause why it cannot up its game and deliver services to clients as expected. 

Stakeholders took turns to shun the sector, which they say should come out in the open and seek probable assistance for the betterment of the industry as a whole, lest they find themselves weakening further and losing out on clients.

Their main focus was based on Maun International Airport which they say has still not expanded despite the chunk of land allocated to them.

Speaking at the 2016 Aviation Pitso themed: “Celebrating Aviation: the next economic frontier”, stakeholders also called for the liberisation of the industry as well as to put in place measures that would ensure bilateral agreements for future growth.

Hospitality And Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) CEO Lilly Rakorong lamented that although the busiest, Maun Airport is currently in a very bad state such that the terminal building alone cannot handle the high number of people using the facility on daily basis. 

As it stands now, she said there were limited seats at the building as a result of congestion, thus forcing clients to wait standing outside; something which she said was not good for tourism and business alike. She said the industry had on numerous occasions proposed that there be proper refurbishment of the airport as there was need to provide clients with a service that would make them want to come back. But with its current status she said she did not see that happening.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications Neil Fitt pointed out that as a long term measure, they had opened up an international competition for the design of a new and bigger terminal building which was expected to accommodate a good number of people. 

“As I speak we have received 23 submissions and we are hopeful that we will be able to pick a few which will beat others. We are also looking for suggestions from stakeholders moving forward. In reality though, construction will take time as the whole process is expected to take at least four to five years,” he said. 

He said another factor that contributed to congestion at the terminal building was attributed to the scheduling of aircrafts, particularly in instances whereby they depart and arrive at just about the same time. 

Meanwhile, he noted the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) and Civil Aviation Association of Botswana (CAAB) were working together at seeing to it that they engaged a contractor to build temporary structures outside the terminal building for international arrivals to ease congestion at the current building while they await a bigger one. 

The temporary construction is expected to be completed by May 2017. Fitt stated that in total, Maun Airport alone has since July to September 2016 received 12 300 aircrafts which have either landed or took off at the facility, making it the second busiest in the whole of SADC. He said Francistown, Gaborone and Kasane have only received 700, 4 700 and 3 700 aircrafts respectively.

Meanwhile, the newly appointed Minister of Transport and Communications Kitso Mokaila has urged stakeholders to feel free to question whatever irregularities they might find. He said questioning of improper administration by government is not an offence as it only means one has a different outlook of things which therefore need to be clarified. 

“You need not spare us. Tell us what you feel is right and where you feel there should be amends and where we are failing as a government. You need to be adventurous and free to face thick skinned people like myself. I might be new in the ministry but I have already familiarised myself with its many setbacks, some of which I will see to in due time,” he said. 

Mokaila further stated that the past meetings had seen people in the sector dragging their feet, not knowing what the future had with regard to Significant Safety Concerns which had the possibility of dragging back achievements made in the past years.That, he said was the beginning of a nightmare because failure to resolve SSC’s would have attracted a ban or blacklisting from the European Union. However, he applauded the sector saying it was committed and hardworking as evidenced by the progress made so far. 

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