Tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing industries. According to the World Tourism Organization, international tourism turnover reached US$ 1,159 billion worldwide in 2013. That makes one out of eleven jobs worldwide. Furthermore, more than one billion people traveled abroad that year. 53% of tourists traveled by air.
Many developing countries want to jump on the bandwagon. Making things easy for airlines to land and take off sounds like a good idea, especially for those bringing in international travelers.
Most of the times it’s the national pride that is at stake.
Yet still, governments are reluctant to sign open sky policy agreements with countries with more powerful and efficient airlines. They are well aware that it may lead to the disappearance of their well-protected state-owned air carrier. Concerns about national security are immediately put forward. Local jobs are also cited. Most of the times it’s the national pride that is at stake. There is only one thing for sure: fierce opposition from some individuals whose vested interests are at risk. Their job is to make sure that no one changes the status quo.
Air transport policies have always been a sensitive issue for any government. Air transport is a powerful instrument for boosting, developing and shaping any national economy. As a result, governments of all types, liberals and interventionists, develop policies to establish sovereign control over this mode of transportation. Governments perceive it’s their duty to impose regulatory frameworks to preserve public interest, and not the least, to protect national security.
During the first half of the 20th century the airline industry was under control of national public carriers. Nevertheless, in the second half of the same century, growing evidence indicated that public ownership was not always in the best public interest. Transportation costs were suspected to remain higher than necessary. Furthermore, members of regulatory bodies were too often found protecting the industry interests rather than those of the public. As a result, a wave of deregulation and privatization shocked the air transport industry in the West.
The tourist industry has since grown at staggering rate.
The debate remains; foreign low-cost carriers versus national – and subsidized – state-owned airlines. The choice is not easy. In the meantime, millions of potential tourists – and their foreign currencies – await.