Our airline needs better management, says tourism minister Hanekom

South African Airways needs to be better managed so it is not a burden on the state, according to tourism minister Derek Hanekom.

He was responding to questions regarding the role of the national carrier at Meetings Africa, the event industry trade show in Johannesburg. He said it was imperative that the airline “does better than breaking even” and stays in profit. He said that while the airline should assist the promotion of the country, it should not do so at the cost of the taxpayer.

The airline hasn’t made a profit since 2011 and pressure is mounting on the management team to turn the trading results around.

Pressed on the subject of the government’s overall financial probity, Hanekom accepted that the latest budget did not inspire confidence among international markets.

He said: “It was a budget with credibility. We are gradually restoring confidence levels. And foreign direct investment is very important. I think now South Africa is seen as doing the right things and getting out of our problems. Ratings agencies are not lacking in ability and they don’t want deception but this budget was very realistic. There is a cautious mood of optimism right now. The national convention bureau has done an excellent job is growing the events business here – the repeat buyers and exhibitors shows that they do good business at the show. I am proud of the way Meetings Africa has been hosted.”

Hanekom opened this year’s Meetings Africa claiming broken records on all fronts, calling this year’s show “bigger and better”. He said the 14th edition of the show at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, includes 338 exhibitors – a 10 per cent increase on the previous year. African countries that are newly represented include Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and Mauritius.

This year 462 from 65 countries have been hosted, also up from last year’s total of 392.