Investment indicates confidence in St Helena tourism
by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE Atlantic Ocean island of Saint Helena, only once popular for being the place French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled, is set to be a hive of tourist and business activity with the forthcoming launch of a first commercial air service.
The breakthrough, which is also poised to benefit the South African economy, is the brainchild of Comair, which has made a multibillion-dollar investment to service the route.
The airliner, which has a licence agreement with British Airways, has acquired a US$48 million Boeing Next Generation 737-800 ahead of resumption of flights.
“The new aircraft will help us embrace opportunities like the new Saint Helena route,” Comair Chief Executive Officer, Erik Venter, said in Johannesburg.
Comair is awaiting certification from the Saint Helena aviation authorities while the island’s airport is under construction.
Saint Helena Airport has been under construction since early 2012, with scheduled air services from Johannesburg set to commence in May.
Venter, whose company also serves regional routes to South Africa, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, pointed out the expansion to Saint Helena would boost the economy of South Africa.
“Because we will be the sole operator plying the route Saint Helena, every traveler who wants to fly to that country will have to come to South Africa,” Venter said.
The trip, according to Venter, will be more than four hours long.
Currently, a journey by ship to the island nation reportedly takes as long as five days from Cape Town, the South African city.
Venter said the acquisition is a strong indicator of Comair’s confidence in leisure and business travel, borne out by the International Air Travel Association, whose recent statistics show that in November African airlines enjoyed their fifth consecutive month of growth.
South Africa Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, said the resumption of flights to Saint Helena would boost the South African economy.
The Atlantic Ocean island imports mainly from South Africa and the United Kingdom.
“This is not just about the new aircraft but a much-needed show of confidence in our economy,” said Hanekom.
Saint Helena’s government believes the launch of a first commercial air service to the country would “be a positive step to provide an excellent gateway to the rest of the world.”
With a population of 4 200 inhabitants, Saint Helena is a volcanic tropical island in the South Atlantic Ocean, 4 000 kilometres east of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and 1 950 kilometres west of the Cunene River, which marks the border between Namibia and Angola.
The tourist industry is heavily based on the promotion of Napoleon’s imprisonment.
Britain kept Napoleon on the island in 1815.
The island is popular for its rich diversity of heritage-based attractions, both built and natural.
– CAJ News
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