We must grow the aviation industry

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 04 November 2015   |   By *ian Khama

It  is indeed an honour and privilege for me to officiate at this historic occasion, the re-commissioning of the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport terminal building and related airport expansion works.

As you may recall, this flagship airport, Sir Seretse Khama International Airport Terminal, has evolved from a small makeshift terminal situated adjacent to the University of Botswana and the National Stadium, subsequently relocating in 1984 to a slightly bigger building remotely constructed about 20 kilometres from the City Centre. Thus, this is an iconic project that marks the steady growth of Botswana's aviation sector.

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Starting from 2010, the SSKIA terminal building evolved to this state of the art building, marking the country's fast paced development paralleled by an equal growth in aviation activities. The growth of the aviation sector has kept pace with the growth of the City, noting that the City has grown towards the airport, with some of the essential services in logistics being situated closer to the airport for convenience and synchronization of efforts as per the planning pertaining to transport services.

The airport expansion and refurbishment project was initially planned for completion in 2010. However, that was not possible due to the numerous challenges that were encountered. In this respect, a major challenge that added to the impediment of timely delivery that is worth mentioning is poor construction management. Indeed it serves as a lesson, to us as Batswana that the choice and the management of contractors we engage in our major projects is critical. Today as we commission this terminal building and associated works, we must also pause, and think of the consequences of the delays that emanated from this project. We as the Government have always recognized the role played by Air Transport in the economy of this country. We know how critical air transport is and also that it contributes significantly towards tourism, trade, investment and the travel industry as a whole. It is in this realization that we have deliberately decided to invest substantially in the development and improvement of our airports and other infrastructure.

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All our four major airports have undergone development and improvement in the last 10 years. In this regard, huge capital investment work was completed at the Francistown Airport in 2011; the new terminal building at Kasane International Airport is scheduled for completion in the next 12 months; and a new control tower and technical block at Maun Airport are also due for completion early next year, while a new terminal building is at design stage at the same location.

In relation to aircraft handling capacity, the SSKIA runway was extended from 3000m to 4000m in 2011 to handle the largest commercial jet aircraft. It is also planned that the terminal building will be expanded in the short term for purposes of making it more functional and accommodate increased passenger growth.

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With regard to the expected business growth at SSKIA, the recently developed SSKIA Land Use Master Plan that has projected an increase with respect to passenger traffic of approximately 1.5 million passengers in the year 2025. Consequently, with the land use master plan, the intention is to transform the airport into a vibrant commercial centre thus turning it into an "Airport City". If well planned, the airport will become a centre of urban activity which can translate into large numbers of people, public and private transport, commercial activity and offices far removed from the Gaborone metropolitan centre. Therefore, the airport terminal has to be made flexible to give travellers a good travelling experience coupled with a good commercial as well as a leisurely experience through its commercial and retail spacing.

With the foregoing, it clearly illustrates the synergies between the Aviation sector, Trade and Tourism. It is therefore crucial that there is synchronization of efforts within these sectors, especially in our efforts to diversify the economy, as well as placing Botswana at the center and as a major player within the global diamond industry. With the commissioning of this airport, I urge the Ministry of Transport and Communications to continue to market our aviation industry so that we can attract more major players to utilize our airports through inter alia, the signing of Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs). I am made to understand that we have so far concluded 28 BASAs.

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We have during the past few years realized increased passenger volumes and Aircraft movements. In this respect, there is still potential for Botswana to grow and benefit immensely from this industry.

In relation to customer services and upkeep of facilities we should be second to none. We should have zero tolerance for unsatisfactory customer service. We should at all times demonstrate world class standards in dealing with all those using our airports. We should take into account that our airports are gateways from the outside world to our country. Therefore, our customer service to visitors as the first point of contact, is a mirror image of how visitors view our country, and we should in this respect always strive to give it our best.

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I am hopeful that visitors to our country and our own citizens will continue to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities brought by this airport.  It is now my pleasure to declare the SSKIA terminal building and related works officially opened.

*Statement by President Ian Khama at the commissioning of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport ,Gaborone.



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