Approaches to Effective Air Route Development in Madagascar
Air and road connections are the most commonly mentioned constraints to growth for tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Government of Madagascar (GoM) has set itself the ambitious target of welcoming 500,000 tourist arrivals by 2023. In this context, under the Madagascar Integrated Growth Poles and Corridor (SOP2 Project), funded by the World Bank, a Route Development Committee for Madagascar is in the early stages of establishment. The Committee aims to increase international arrivals to Madagascar and to improve flight planning of domestic routes to integrate with arriving international flights. Committee members are already engaged in route development efforts but without a joint vision or clear implementation process.
South Africa however, holds one of the world’s most successful examples of developing and implementing an air service development program. A knowledge exchange with South Africa was developed to support members of the Route Development Committee towards the achievement of their goals.
The knowledge exchange and learning activities were carried out in two main parts namely a study tour to Cape Town, South Africa and participation in the Indian Ocean Tourism Connectivity Forum organized late May 2019 in Mauritius. The delegation from Madagascar consisted of eight members of the Air Route Development Committee, representing various public and private sector institutions.
The goals of the knowledge exchange activities were to:
- Raise awareness of relevant constraints to air connectivity in neighboring countries African and potential approaches to addressing them
- Enhance knowledge of good practices in air service development, related marketing and the infrastructure implications of route development
- Strengthen collaboration within the Madagascar Air Route Development Committee
- Establish/enhance strategic relationships between the Madagascar Air Route Development Committee and key South Africa air transport and regional partners
Air and road connections are the most commonly mentioned constraints to growth for tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Government of Madagascar (GoM) has set itself the ambitious target of welcoming 500,000 tourist arrivals by 2023. In line of this target, GoM has enacted an Air Transport Policy note which addresses opening of skies and facilitation for increased air connectivity. In parallel, GoM has also successfully privatized the management of the two main airports in Madagascar (Antananarivo and Nosy Be) and secured a strategic partnership for its national airline, Air Madagascar.
Active coordination of public and private stakeholders working in the air transport and tourism sectors is required to ensure rationalization of international and domestic flights as well as a proactive air service development program. In this context, under the Madagascar Integrated Growth Poles and Corridor (SOP2 Project), funded by the World Bank, a Route Development Committee for Madagascar is in the early stages of establishment. The initial goal of the committee is to establish and implement a collaborative approach to increasing international arrivals to Madagascar and to improve flight planning of domestic routes to integrate with arriving international flights.
Members of the Route Development Committee are already engaged in route development efforts through their respective organizations but without a joint vision or clear implementation process. The knowledge exchange and learning activities were developed to support members of the Route Development Committee towards the achievement of their implementation goals.
The knowledge exchange and learning activities were carried out in two main parts namely a study tour to Cape Town, South Africa and participating in the Indian Ocean Tourism Connectivity Forum. Prior to the visit to South Africa, participants received information packages and a list of questions to help them prepare and guide their discussions.
Knowledge exchange with South Africa
The study tour to South Africa took place on April 28-30, 2019. The Malagasy delegation met with high-level officials from Cape Town Air Access; the Tourism, Trade and Investment Promotion Agency for Cape Town and Western Cape (Wesgro); the Business Tourism Company; IOS partners and Cape Town International Airport. The delegation sought to learn from the experiences and impressive track record of Cape Town Air Access (CTAA). CTAA is a focal point for international air route development in the Western Cape of South Africa. Since its inception in 2015, CTAA is one of the world’s most successful examples of developing and implementing an air service development program. Among its major achievements and contribution are:
- Landing 9 new international airlines, 14 new routes and 19 route expansions at Cape Town International Airport
- Doubling international seat capacity at the airport, with 1.5 million seats
- 16% international terminal passenger growth in 2016 and 20% growth in 2017
- Growth of 52 % in international air cargo in 2017
- Estimated increase in direct tourism spending of R6 billion for the Western Cape Province
Key themes addressed during the study tour included:
- Introduction to Air Service Development
- In-depth presentation of the Cape Town Air Access program describing its purpose, structure, budget, methodology and key results
- The significant role of the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) market for tourism development
- How an institutional model (Wesgro) can combine tourism, trade and investment promotion with air connectivity allowing optimal convergence across the three sectors
- A field visit to the Cape Town International Airport management center where all airport operations are managed and monitored
Indian Ocean Tourism Connectivity Forum
The Indian Ocean Tourism Connectivity Forum was organized in Mauritius by the World Bank in collaboration with the Government of Mauritius and in coordination with the Governments of Madagascar, Mozambique and Seychelles, on May 30-31, 2019. The Forum brought together policy makers, technical specialists and private sector representatives in the field of tourism connectivity from the Indian Ocean sub-region and across the Sub-Saharan Africa region, as well as internationally reorganized experts in air transport, tourism development and visa facilitation.
The objectives of the forum were to:
- Share data, knowledge and experiences in air connectivity and visa facilitation, with a special focus on the Indian Ocean sub-region
- Identify practical opportunities for enhancing tourism connectivity, including increased collaboration among countries
- Disseminate best practices in promoting tourism competitiveness through air service initiatives and visa facilitation
The delegation from Madagascar included six officials who had participated in the study tour to South Africa, in addition to representatives of Air Madagascar and Ravinala Airports. The knowledge gained during this forum provided a strong foundation for participants to engage in technical discussions with international experts in air service development, airport management and international aviation regulation as well as those responsible for route development and participating neighboring countries.
From the participant feedback as well as subsequent discussions, the following key lessons emerged:
- It is critical to establish a shared vision among relevant public and private air service development stakeholders, as well as having agreement on clear objectives and targets to achieve that vision.
- It is necessary to design an institutional framework for an air service development program that clearly describes roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder.
- It is highly advisable to have a single designated interlocuter responsible for communicating with the targeted and existing airlines.
- An air service development program benefits from having a technical unit or working group responsible for the preparation of business cases to present to airlines, including a full-time data analyst.
- The importance of establishing an air service fund with sponsors and partners to enable the program to offer incentives to airlines as required.
- The MICE market holds significant potential for tourism growth, but strong air connectivity is a necessary first step in attracting this market.
- Efforts to grow tourism and air connectivity can benefit significantly from a strategic alignment of tourism, trade, air connectivity and investment promotion efforts.
- The tourist experience begins at the airport so quality customer service across all airport services is critical to overall visitor satisfaction.
- Air service development can take a very long time, so patience and continued efforts are key.
Beneficiaries / Participants
- Lead, Market Research and Partnership Division, Madagascar National Tourism Board
- Pilot, Tourism Confederation of Madagascar
- Technical Advisor to the Ministry of Transport, Tourism and Meteorology
- Head of Economic Regulation and Research Department, Madagascar Civil Aviation Authority
- Head of Statistics and Network Development Department, Aéroports de Madagascar (ADEMA)
- Managing Director, Tsaradia Airline
- Chief Operating Officer, IOS Partners
- Head of Tourism Component, Integrated Growth Poles Project
World Bank Contribution
The World Bank, through the South- South Facility, funded the knowledge exchange activities. Planning and implementation was a collaborative effort between teams from the Finance, Competitiveness & Innovation Global Practice, the Governance Global Practice and Development Economics (DEC) Vice Presidency unit. A World Bank team stationed in Madagascar accompanied and supported the Malagasy delegation during the study tour. The World Bank was a lead partner in the organization of the Indian Ocean Tourism Connectivity Forum and presented the findings of analytical work on air connectivity to Madagascar.
A week after the study tour to South Africa, the public sector members of the Air Routes Development Committee of Madagascar, including those who participated in the knowledge exchange, met for a working session. During this session, participants shared the key lessons learned from the exchange and proposed action steps were discussed and summarized. Some of the next steps proposed included:
- Updating the government’s Air Transport Policy Letter to better communicate Madagascar’s air access development needs
- Creating a Steering Committee, led by the Minister of Transport, Tourism and Meteorology
- Defining a 5-year Strategic Plan for Air Connectivity (2019-2023)
- Establishing a technical unit or working group consisting of a project manager, an air transport specialist and a data analyst with partnership and co-financing agreements with Ravinala Airports, Aéroports de Madagascar (ADEMA) and private sector actors such as tour operators and exporters
- Updating bilateral agreements as needed
- Implementing the strategic plan via the technical unit/working group
The summary of the key lessons and proposals was to be presented to the Minister of Transport and Tourism for his buy-in and action.
Delegates from Madagascar benefitted from knowledge and experience shared by professionals from South Africa and beyond. New knowledge and skills gained through the exchange are mentioned below, as well as other results achieved.
- Understanding that an air service development program should generally follow a standard set of steps namely identify demand, revise bilateral agreements, identify potential airlines, conduct technical and financial feasibility studies and approach airlines with business case. Each of these steps was well explained and relevant examples were provided.
- Infrastructure needs to be related to air service development. During the field visit to the Cape Town International Airport, the Malagasy delegation learned about the infrastructure expansion needs of the airport stemming from a successfully implemented air service development program. The group was struck by the airport’s capacity to bring all service providers e.g. airlines, security, customs together to optimize efficiency and enhance the whole airport experience for passengers. During a tour of the Airport Management Centre, the delegation saw first-hand how all airport operations are managed and monitored.
- Good practice approaches to analyzing flight and tourism demand using large-scale datasets, including user-generated data, for elaborating air service and tourism development strategies.
- Findings of World Bank analytical work on air connectivity to Madagascar was shared. These findings included the identification of routes with burgeoning demand to be monitored as possible new route as well as new routes with sufficient demand for air service development.
- Air service development should do more than just bring new routes. An effective air program should (i) maintain existing routes by nurturing relationships with existing airlines, (ii) develop existing routes through either increased frequencies and greater load factors, and (iii) open new routes with new airlines.
- Close monitoring to the performance of an air service development program is required using pre-determined indicators such as increase in annual capacity, increase in the number of airlines and frequency to the destination.
- The importance of collaboratively setting strategic objectives and developing action plans. During a session titled “The Big Picture of Success” emphasis was made that an effective tourism program must begin with a vision, benchmarks and indicators. This would enable the optimal combination of tourism volume, value, length of stay, geographical spread and seasonality to achieve economic growth and job creation goals.
- Best practices in approaching and negotiating with airlines. Participants learned that business cases to be presented to airlines must include thorough analysis of demand data and economic analysis in order to demonstrate the viability of a new route/frequency, as multiple destinations will be competing for the airlines’ attention. The importance of nurturing and maintaining good relationships with the existing airlines was underscored as this helps to ensure continued viability of their routes.
- Development of targeted marketing activities aligned with new routes. Strong and innovative marketing programs should accompany new routes in both the origin and destination countries. Participants learned the significant role that the MICE market has played in the development of tourism in the Western Cape region. Good connectivity is a key requirement in developing a MICE sector.
- After the presentation on the findings of the World Bank Analytical work on air connectivity to Madagascar, the Air Madagascar delegation expressed interest in exploring the operation of a route identified as having clear unmet demand, as well as other origin markets with growing demand and potential for future air service development.
- A closed multilateral roundtable was held for discussions on sub-regional air connectivity cooperation, with representatives of airlines and civil authorities of Madagascar, Seychelles, Mauritius and La Reunion, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). These discussions explored concrete opportunities for further air connectivity collaboration across the sub-region. As a result, Air Madagascar and Air Mauritius initiated discussions on possible collaboration.
At the end of the study tour, a joint action planning session took place to establish the next steps in developing Madagascar’s air service program. Specifically, participants performed rough calculations of the number and types of new flights, levels of optimization of existing flights required to reach the government target of 500,000 international arrivals. These calculations will help guide the setting of targets for the Air Route Development Committee.
An evaluation and feedback questionnaire were completed by the participants, sharing their key lessons, experiences and possible application of the knowledge gained.
- Cape Town Air Access (CTAA)
- Trade and Investment Promotion Agency for Cape Town and Western Cape (Wesgro)
- The Business Tourism Company
- IOS Partners
- Cape Town International Airport
Indian Ocean Tourism Connectivity Forum:
- The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
- The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
Results Story Author: Twity M. Uzele