NAMIBIA welcomed the first international flight to land at the Hosea Kutako International Airport for six months with open arms.
The Chairperson of the Namibia Airports Company Board of Directors, Dr. Leake Hangala, was on the apron of Namibia’s principal airport to welcome the flight of Ethiopian Airways and said the arrival of the flight signifies the re-opening of the country’s borders for international visitors and Namibians that have been stuck abroad since international travel restrictions were introduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The arrival of the flight is part of the International Tourism Revival Initiatives that came into effect on 1 September,” he said.
Although some repatriation and medical cargo flights have been landing and departing from the HKIA, all commercial flight operations ceased in March this year.
“We are excited to have the Ethiopian Airways touch down on the Namibian soil. This is a manifestation of the Namibian Government’s commitment to revive economic opportunities,” he said and added that airports are engines of economic growth, wealth, and employment creation.
According to Dr. Hangala, airport businesses are highly dependent on passenger volumes. He indicated that passenger movements declined by almost 80% globally whereas on the African continent it declined by up to 95% due to travel bans and lockdowns restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Similarly, cargo traffic also contracted as a result of overall weakness in the economy. As such the decline in traffic movements affected the financial situation of the world’s airports which culminated in direct and indirect job losses. Undoubtedly, all those negative effects will negatively hamper the recovery of the entire aviation ecosystem,” he ventured.
Dr. Hangala said that travel bans have negatively impacted the NAC’s revenue streams of both aeronautical and non–aeronautical revenue since the airport business heavily depend on passenger movements.
Revenue for the NAC reduced by 96%, averaging a loss of N$41 million per month.
“With the gradual opening of our borders, other airlines such as Air Namibia, the national carrier, Lufthansa, Qatar have already expressed their readiness to resume flight operations at our flagship airport. This will positively increase passenger movements which will contribute meaningfully to the economic activities at the airport and the tourism industry in line with the objectives of the tourism revival initiative,” Dr. Hangala said.
Dr. Hangala commended all stakeholders for their fruitful contribution and support which culminated in the realization of the tourism revival initiative.
“I would however like to emphasize that there is still a great need for the continued collaboration between and amongst stakeholders in order to ensure the smooth and unhindered processing of passengers at our airports,” he said.
Dr. Hangala thanked Ethiopian Airways for the resumption of flight operations and the regard for Namibia as a preferred tourist destination.