It should be noted, however, that whilst the movement of goods suffered some setbacks, especially in terms of luxury imports and exports, the movement of essential goods was not much curtailed as some sections of the sector continued to blossom.
It is the movement of air passengers that felt the greatest pinch as some months of 2020 experienced a total shutdown. This saw the sector retreat from a 2019 passenger movement peak of 275 406 air travellers in the third quarter of 2019 to as low as 2 704 air travellers in the second quarter of 2020. Since then, the increase has shown growth in leaps and bounds as it has taken an ascending trajectory.
Thus, according to the 2021 second quarter Stats Brief produced by Statistics Botswana, passenger movements for the second quarter of 2021 totalled 69,656, an increase of 49.8 percent when compared to the first quarter of 2021. International movements made up 47.6 percent of the passenger movements while 52.4 percent were domestic.
In comparison to the previous quarter, international passenger movements increased by 57.7 percent while domestic movements increased by 43.3 percent. The increase in the movement is undoubtedly as a result of the retaining confidence by both governments and its people to return to near normalcy from the fears brought about by the pandemic, the greatest boost being the vaccination programmes that have greatly reduced the rates of transmission of the virus.
The Brief also shows that scheduled passenger movements constituted 76.4 percent of the total movements recorded in the said quarter. This was an increase of 33.6 percent when compared to the first quarter of 2021. Non-scheduled movements accounted for 21.7 percent of the total. Both private and scenic passenger movements constituted 0.9 percent of the total.
Whilst the increases are commendable, it should be noted that current levels are way below the pre-COVID period. It therefore means that the industry is still operating way below normal capacity, hence overheads within the sub sector remain disproportional to the level of operation. It is obvious therefore that this is not sustainable in the long-term. Government support for the small players within the sector therefore becomes critical to ensure that they do not go permanently under.
It is hoped that once Botswana completes its vaccination programme, a massive advertisement of its tourism destinations will improve both local and international passenger travel. What remains unclear, however, is whether air passenger travel will ever surpass the pre-COVID period. COVID-19 has not only induced fear of travel but has also brought with it more efficient alternatives to travel such as online meetings and learning, optimisation of Internet services and a general review of some traditions and practices that has seen ‘unnecessary travel’ being sidelined.
This article was prepared by Data Collection & Analysis, a business research firm.
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