Erbil Akgun, the General Manager for Turkish Airlines (Uganda)had a one-on-one with East African Business Week about operations between Entebbe and Istanbul, as well as other related issues to expanding trade with Turkey and Uganda. Below are excerpts:
Have Turkish business people responded positively to developing trade links with Ugandans since Turkish Airlines started flights to Entebbe?
Turkish Airlines began operations to Entebbe mid-2010. This opened up Uganda to Turkish business people. This led to the formation of the Turkish-Uganda business council. A trade agreement between the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UNCCI) and the Union of Chamber and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) has been signed.
The agreement, leading to the creation of the Uganda – Turkish and Turkish – Uganda business councils, is meant to contribute to the improvement of the trade and investment climate between the two countries.
The volume of trade and investment between the two countries is estimated at USD 30million by end of 2013.
Can you give us an idea of what areas interest Turkish business people the most in terms of investment and trade with Uganda?
Turkish investments in Uganda currently include road construction- Kolin Construction Company. Cement manufacturing, oil drilling rigs supplies, manufacture of pre-payment meters for water and electricity, healthcare and education - like the Turkish Academy in Uganda, Turkish restaurants, among others.
What about Ugandan traders, what attracts them to Turkey and does the airline have special packages for them?
Turkish Airlines offers competitive rates to all travellers out of Entebbe, not specific to Uganda traders. Most Uganda traders are interested in Textiles and furniture. The Airline offers cargo space of about 60tonnes. As an airline we also offer 40+10 kg extra baggage allowance to passengers who fly to Turkey.
Could you comment on Turkish tourist numbers visiting Uganda, do you see a steady increase?
Turkish Airlines began flights to Entebbe with three flights a week. Currently we have daily flights between Entebbe and Istanbul. The number of passenger between Entebbe and Istanbul is estimated to 2,500 in 2013. Istanbul also offers good connection to the rest of the world. There is no transit visa need for travelers who fly to other countries via Istanbul. Impact on Tourism is small but growing.
What do you think Ugandan authorities should improve on to encourage more interest from Turkish business people and investors?
Ugandan authorities first of all must market Uganda as an investment destination. Improve quality of service delivery, infrastructure and generally a good investment climate. They have to proof to all investors Uganda is a safe place to invest and live.
Turkish is listed among the fastest growing airlines in the world, your video ad featuring Lionel Messi and Kobe Bryant is viewed as a global hit, did this also translate in higher sales figures?
Turkish airline is one of the largest network carrier in the world. We fly to 105 countries and 243 destinations. Despite a difficult year 2013 in the aviation sector, Turkish airlines registered a 20percent growth. Our volumes have grown to USD 10billion by the end of 2013.
Do you consider your ticket prices as competitive compared to other airlines serving Entebbe and Europe?
Our ticket prices are very competitive. We determine our pricing based on research and market factors. Pricing is handled by a team at our headquarters in Istanbul.
Has the Istanbul-Entebbe route broke even yet, considering that in early days outward flights carried less passengers?
Considering the level of investments on the Entebbe route we have not broken even. We have given our selves five years and it looks promising.
Can you give us specific figures on passenger numbers?
Last year we saw a total of 32,000 passengers
In terms of airfreight, is Turkish seeing higher volumes on the Istanbul-Entebbe route?
Turkish cargo services a 60 tones capacity to exporters in Uganda. We have a large network for cargo network also.
Handling costs at Entebbe International Airport are said to be some of the highest in the region, will this affect any decision by Turkish to perhaps increase flights?
Handling cost will not hinder Turkish Airline from Operating in Entebbe, since our pricing is competitive.