Cape Town prepares to welcome IATA delegates

Cape Town prepares to welcome IATA delegates

Officials at the International Air Transport Association have announced South African Airways will host the 69th IATA Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit.

The event will draw the top leadership of the air transport industry to Cape Town’s International Convention Centre from June 2nd-4th 2013.

Here Breaking Travel News takes a look at just what delegates can expect to find in this world class destination.

First up is, of course, Table Mountain. Guests can get to the top of Cape Town’s most famous icon in just five minutes by taking a cable car up, or spend the better part of a day hiking it.

Table Mountain Cableway, established in 1929, takes visitors to the top in one of two cable cars, each with rotating floors and huge windows to ensure your views while travelling are almost as spectacular as those on the summit.

From the top of Table Mountain, there are magnificent views of the Cape Town city centre, surrounding suburbs and the Atlantic Ocean.

Landmarks in view include Cape Town Stadium, Robben Island and Camps Bay beach.

Table Mountain is known for its rich biodiversity and is home to over 1,500 species of plants (more than the number found throughout the entire British Isles), most of them fynbos, which forms one of the world’s six plant kingdoms all on its own.

At its highest point, Table Mountain reaches 1,085m and affords views all the way to Robben Island and beyond.

Cape Point, the most south-westerly tip of Africa, is a spectacular, narrow finger of land, covered in endemic fynbos and home to picturesque bays, beaches, rolling green hills and valleys.

The beaches have allowed Cape Town to take the title of Africa’s Leading Beach Destination at the World Travel Awards.

Cape Point falls within the Cape Floral Region, a World Heritage Site, and is the most southerly point within the Good Hope section of Table Mountain National Park.

The Cape Floral Region is one of the richest areas for plants in the world – it is home to nearly 20 per cent of Africa’s flora.

Plan a picnic in the park or on the beach, hike or mountain bike, have lunch in the upmarket Two Oceans Restaurant high above the crashing waves of False Bay, or simply catch The Flying Dutchman funicular to some superb lookout points over the Atlantic Ocean.

Apart from the spectacular view, holidaymakers will be able to see the most powerful lighthouse on the South African coast, which helps guide ships safely through perilous waters that have seen to the end of many a vessel.

Look out, too, for pelagic birds of which there are a large variety, zebra, eland, and the many species of reptiles and small mammals.

Chacma baboons are common here, especially at the point itself.

Famous for different reasons is Robben Island, once “home” to some of South Africa’s most famous political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela.

The location is now one of South Africa’s most visited tourist attractions, and rightly so.

Robben Island is situated some nine kilometres offshore from Cape Town.

Dubbed “Robben” (“the place of seals”) by Dutch settlers, the island was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, and over the centuries has been used as a prison, a hospital, a mental institution, and a military base.

It is most famous for being a political prison during apartheid, an era of racial segregation in South Africa, when many of South Africa’s most prominent freedom fighters spent time here.

Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of the 27 years he was imprisoned here.

A tour of the Robben Island Museum begins at the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V & A Waterfront, where guests can look through multimedia exhibitions, visit the museum shop and enjoy a meal at the restaurant while you wait for the ferry.

Ferries depart regularly from the gateway, and each tour takes approximately 3.5 hours.

Visitors will be guided around the island by a former political prisoner who will relay the history of the island, together with firsthand accounts of prison life, ensuring a personal and poignant tour.

A bus takes guests to the lime quarry where Mandela and his fellow prisoners did hard labour.

Additional stopovers include the Kramat (shrine) of Tuan Guru (a Muslim leader), the Lepers’ Graveyard and the house where Robert Sobukwe lived in solitary confinement for nine years.

Robben Island also has an interesting mix of flora and fauna and Murray Bay, the island’s small harbour, is home to 140,000 African penguins.

Guests looking for accommodation near by might like to consider the award winning Westin Cape Town or Mount Nelson Hotel.

Lastly, the V&A Waterfront is South Africa’s most visited destination, attracting millions of visitors every year – and for good reason, given the location’s combination of shops, restaurants, nightspots, tourist attractions and museums in the city’s historic harbour.

Guests might like to visit the family-friendly Two Oceans Aquarium, where they can eyeball sharks, penguins and hundreds of species of sea life.

There are lots of outdoor activities available too, ranging from helicopter flips to boat charters and relaxed harbour cruises (walk along the water’s edge and pick one – there are several options).

Or browse through hundreds of shopping outlets, ranging from larger department stores selling designer labels to boutique jewellery and curio shops.

The V&A Waterfront’s Amphitheatre is a good spot for live entertainment (usually provided to the public for free) – from concerts to creative workshops and puppet shows.

For those in search of local culture and history there are a number of museums and galleries that form part of the precinct – including the Maritime Centre in the Union Castle Building, which features a collection of ship models and objects associated with shipping in Cape Town, in particular the era of mail ships.

Guests can also visit the Chavonnes Battery Museum – a heritage site and the first coastal fortification to protect Table Bay besides The Castle.

South Africa

But there is also work to be done at the IATA annual general meeting, with director general Tony Tyler pointing to the developing sector in South Africa.

“Air connectivity is key to South Africa’s economic success, contributing 2.1 per cent to the country’s GDP,” he explained.

“Along with supporting South Africa’s strong tourism sector, air connectivity plays a critical role in maximising growth opportunities arising from South Africa’s BRICS membership and the burgeoning African economy.”

South Africa Airlines has been recognised as Africa’s Leading Airline by the World Travel Awards.

The aviation and aerospace sectors contribute about ZAR51 billion to South Africa’s GDP in 2012 and this activity supports over 227,000 South African jobs.

The bulk of this contribution is driven by commercial airline transport.

“We look forward to hosting the global air transport community in South Africa.

“Holding the AGM and WATS on African soil will focus the global industry’s attention on the tremendous opportunities as trade and tourism links are being strengthened within the continent and to new and traditional markets beyond,” said Vuyisile Kona, South African Airways chief executive.

“The IATA AGM and WATS is a unique marketing and publicity opportunity for our industry, for Cape Town and for South Africa. 

“Significantly, it takes place at the same time as our country is rolling out a new national infrastructure development programme. 

“This will position South Africa to play a vital role driving trade, business and tourism on the continent together with current and developing markets in Brazil, Russia, India & China.

“In turn this promises to create jobs and tackle poverty and inequality in South Africa,” added Kona.

According to Oxford Economics’ recent study on the Benefits of Aviation to South Africa, 21 million passengers and over 240,000 tonnes of freight travel to, from and within South Africa on more than 52,500 scheduled international flights annually serving 77 airports in 51 countries. 

Domestically, more than 156,000 flights provide more than 17 million seats on routes linking 17 airports across the country.

The study, which was commissioned by IATA on behalf of the industry, reports that in 2010 there were 66 routes per week connecting major airports in South Africa to major economic centres around the world.

On average, there were four outbound flights per day on those routes.  Twelve of these routes connected South Africa to cities of more than ten million inhabitants with an average of 1.5 outbound passenger flights each day. 

Many of these city-pair connections are only possible because of the traffic density provided by hub airports.

More information on the official IATA website.