Turkish Airlines recently started flights to Uganda joining several other carriers that have embraced East Africa as a tourist destination. East African Business Week' s editor Jerome Mukasa caught up with the Uganda country Director Mr Orhan Subay. Below are excerpts.
Question: How experienced is your airline in conducting business of this nature?
Answer: Turkish Airlines is more than 80 years old and is the eighth biggest in the world in terms of destinations. It flies to 190 destinations on top of opening new routes every month. Since 2002 we have been growing at 20%. We were voted best airline in 2010 by Skytrax, the world's civil aviation audit and service benchmarking programme.
QN: How many destination do you fly to in Africa?
ANS: We fly to more than 30 destinations. In East Africa we are in Entebbe, Nairobi, Khartoum and next year we shall be in Kigali. Other major destinations include Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lagos, Dakar and most north African cities.
QN: How prepared are you for stiff competition in this region since you face airlines such as Kenya Airways, Qatar Airways, Emirates, British Airways, KLM, SN Brussels and Gulf Air which is coming?
ANS: The most important issue in civil aviation, is the price and the aircraft type and service on board.
We intend to market Turkey and Uganda. Turkey is the 16th biggest economy in the world. Turkish goods are competitive and of good quality and yet cheaper. So this is enough to attract traders and visitors to the country and Turkish Airlines will be there to fly them.
QN: What strategic plan do you have to attract passengers from East Africa who are used to doing business in Dubai, Mumbai London etc?
ANS: Through our consulate we shall sell both Turkey and Uganda as business and tourist destinations.We have organised business meetings where Ugandan traders submitted proposals and meetings are being arranged. We shall also link travel agents with their counterparts in Turkey.
We also have world scale festivals that attract a lot of people throughout the world. Between April and May more than 20 million people descend on Ankara for the annual Tulip festival.
QN: How developed is the tourist industry in Turkey to be of attraction to East Africans?
ANS: Istabul is large commercial hub in Europe. It attracts many Europeans, Americans and people from all walks of life. In the leisure industry we provide very good facilities at a cheaper rate than other destinations. We also have other attractions in the medical and educational world
Many Europeans choose Turkey because it is cheaper and yet the quality is very good. There are 300 kilometres of sand beach to enjoy as one recovers from an ailment. Some of our universities are more than 300 to 600 years old offering a variety of courses in sciences and business. Students can take on courses in English without a problem.
QN: What is the frequency of your flights?
ANS: We have two daily flights to Entebbe one on Tuesdays and another on Thursdays which will grow to six next year. We have daily flights to Nairobi which will double (twice a day) next year. We shall also open the Kigali route next year. Many airlines would like to come in this region but the handling fees are too high.