Turkish airport operator TAV Airports has closely followed the development of projects in Africa and the Balkans and will take advantage of the opportunities offered in the regions, the company CEO said Tuesday.
"We have projects that we follow in Africa and the Balkans in line with our predetermined goals. We can add them to our portfolio if they match our strategic and financial targets," Sani Şener said.
Şener told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the TAV's "food, beverage and lounge operating companies serve at 86 airports besides our own operations. Nearly 40% of our turnover is currently coming from abroad. Central Asia, Africa and the Balkans are our areas of interest. We need to do business in growing countries."
He declared Africa among the "leading markets," and classified the Balkans and Central Asia as "developing" regions.
"Our goal in leading markets and developing countries is to utilize the opportunities there. We will continue to grow that way, both in our service companies and airport operating companies," he added.
Commenting on the aviation sector during the pandemic, Şener said during the first wave the demand for airlines decreased and airports later temporarily closed, in line with the decisions made by the authorities.
Only cargo, evacuation and emergency flights were carried out at airports that remained open, Şener noted, adding that during this period, industry professionals took the necessary steps to ensure that the airports were up to health and safety standards, in line with the regulations.
"In this respect, necessary hygiene measures were implemented as soon as possible. The safety of employees and passengers was placed above everything else. While taking these steps, we received the required certifications from relevant international organizations to all our airports," he said.
"As both scientists and the public learned more about the virus and it was understood how we could prevent catching it, flights stopped being considered a danger if necessary precautions were taken," Şener said.
"With the beginning of the summer months in the northern hemisphere, firstly holiday travel started, followed by business and other similar travel types," he said, describing when the wheels of aviation began to turn again before the second decrease in demand came with the second wave.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that the global aviation sector experienced a loss of around $140 billion, which was initially at $90 billion.
He hoped by 2023 passenger numbers will reach 2019 pre-pandemic levels. "2021 and 2022 will definitely be better than 2020, but I hope that we can catch up with 2019 in 2023. All of this depends on the vaccine and its benefits."
Highlighting that the company bought Kazakhstan Almaty Airport during the pandemic, Şener said they foresee taking over operations within the first quarter of the year.
Şener said they are very clear in their employment policies that "every 1 million passengers increase, creates employment for 3,000 people in total." Therefore as passenger numbers increase, employment increases in parallel. Şener added that a significant number of employees are currently working from home and that the government's short-term work allowance has helped avoid layoffs.
Şener pointed out that digitalization has accelerated in every field during the pandemic process, saying: "We have increased contactless transactions at our airports. The acceleration in the direction of digitalization and the use of digital technologies in our business processes has increased."
On TAV Airports' stock exchange value, Şener underlined that the aviation sector was one of the worst-hit amid the health and economic crisis.
"It is clear that our market value does not reflect the true value of the company. Together with our employees and passengers, we have taken and continue to take all precautions to protect the financial health of our company," he said, adding that the developments being with the COVID-19 vaccines that are soon to be rolled out have provided hope.
"Pandemic is clearly defined as a 'force majeure' in our contracts. For this reason, we made the necessary applications to the aviation authorities in eight different countries for the compensation of our lost income based on the 'force majeure' articles in our contracts. There may be compensation methods that may differ from contract to contract, time extension, rental delay, or other methods to compensate our losses," he said, adding they expect good results soon.