Local businesses hit hard by George Airport’s continued closure
This comes after seven other regional airports were allowed to operate from July 1, as part of the easing of Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula this week excluded George and East London airports in his announcement as they failed to meet the required health standards.
The provincial government has been lobbying the minister’s office since the first week in June to have the airport reopened. It was prompted by requests from tourism bodies in the district, aviation companies, fuel suppliers as well as businesses around the district, which are directly and indirectly impacted by the closure.
MEC of Economic Development David Maynier expressed his disappointment that George Airport was not ready to reopen.
“We will continue to work with national government, Airports Company SA and the George municipality to address outstanding issues preventing George Airport from opening,” he said.
The airport’s manager, Brenda Vorster, said they were constantly working to improve and meet the standards required for reopening.
“We have everything ready, from glass fittings, to PPE (personal protective equipment) for staff who have been trained, we have sanitiser stations and all that is missing are the resources for screening that we do not have.
“We need people from the department of health who will screen passengers and we had several engagements with the department who have been keen to assist,” said Vorster.
Chairperson of the George Business Chamber Ingrid Cronje said the continued closure has a significant impact on the economy of the district.
“It is the central point of the entire Garden Route and provides access to the district not just for tourism but business travel as well. We also have an export market that is being affected.
"This also affects a lot of people whose families have settled in the district but work in Joburg and commute at the weekend,” Cronje said.
“This means people wishing to come in will have to either fly into Port Elizabeth or drive in or from Cape Town and still make the four to five-hour drive. This impacts on productivity as well as the long drive cuts into hours that could be spent elsewhere,” she said.
With leisure travel only limited to within the borders of a province, the Tourism Business Council of SA has called for the opening of interprovincial travel for leisure to ward off looming retrenchments.
The council said the industry has already lost R68 billion in the 100 days of the lockdown.