Flight Centre Travel Group has seen double-digit month-on-month growth for the last two months and reopened stores nationwide on August 20.
Given the current climate, Andrew Stark, FCTG md Middle East and Africa, says for the next two years he will be looking at month-on-month improvements as opposed to prior year.
“Looking at month-on-month performance, our business is up 50-odd percent,” says Andrew, adding that any double-digit growth these days is cause for optimism.
“We know that we are not going to get back to 2019 levels for the next three to five years, but there are green shoots,” he says. “Overall, we are seeing demand and interest improving across leisure and corporate.”
Andrew is also hopeful that borders will be opened soon. “Hopefully we are not far away from an imminent announcement from the president about international travel.”
Andrew points out that President Cyril Ramaphosa has to make an announcement by September 15 from a legislation perspective and he suggests that the most recent GDP figures could influence what the president says.
Figures released by Stats SA earlier this week showed that real GDP contracted by an annualised rate of 51% in the second quarter.
“There is a growing consensus today that the quicker we open up the borders, the quicker our economy can recover,” says Andrew. He says many of the right decisions have already been made, including making masks mandatory and allowing domestic travel again.
“Hopefully, common sense will prevail,” he says. “We don’t have the luxury or the deep pockets as SA Inc to keep re-stimulating the economy, so we have to find ways to live with this virus in a way that reopens the economy.”
Andrew adds that the latest Business Confidence Index shows increased positive sentiment from business. “That bodes well and we need to strike while the iron is hot and open things up.”
On Wednesday, FirstRand’s Rand Merchant Bank reported that the Confidence Index had rebounded to 24 in the third quarter, after falling to an all-time low of five in the second quarter. The index’s neutral mark is 50, with a reading below that deemed negative.