At the International Tourism Trade Fair (FITUR), the Canary Islands airline set out Binter's objectives as a "hub" between the rest of Spain and Europe and West Africa. This is how Borja Bethencourt, Binter's Head of Communications, explains it.
How many people are you relocating in 2022?
I still can't give an exact figure, but I can say that it is a market that is working much better than we expected in terms of numbers and depending on the destination. We operate in many places, from Fez, in North Africa, to Dakar, in Senegal, or Cape Verde. We link the Canary Islands with West Africa and we want to link the rest of Spain and Europe in the network we have using Gran Canaria as a hub. It is a plan that we are developing so that each destination, depending on the needs, will fit in so that people do not have to go through the big hubs, but opt for safer airports within the European Union and with convenient stopovers to be able to go to Dakar, the Island of Sal, Nouakchott, Agadir or Marrakech.
What is Binter's business concept and objectives?
In the case of routes to West Africa, we have a quite different reality to the one we have when we look at routes in Europe. In West Africa, with respect to the Canary Islands and above all with respect to the rest of Spain, we have quite a varied public. We have a profile of travellers from the mainland or the Canary Islands to places like Marrakech or Agadir, where there is a lot of tourist interest. We also clearly have a business profile; there is a lot of interest in certain places in West Africa. Furthermore, we must not forget that there is a very important ethnic tourism in Spain and in the Canary Islands in particular. This ethnic tourism has meant that we have opened routes such as Guelmim or Dakhla, destinations that are not easy to connect to, not even via Madrid or Barcelona. In addition to this, we have a very important health tourism or shopping tourism that we often forget. This is a profile that needs to shop within the European Union, even to visit relatives, and what they do is choose the Canary Islands as a destination or as a platform to reach other destinations.
When someone thinks that there might be competition, what there is is complementarity.
Exactly. We occupy a very important position because historically and commercially, West Africa is a natural outlet. So we are not only responding to those routes that are made from the European continent or from southern Europe, but also to routes that are not covered and that for strategic reasons we want to be present on them.
The security issue. We often mention Africa and the lack of knowledge often leads to some kind of reluctance. But Binter's experience is that this can be overcome.
Of course, over the last few years we have been developing a marketing communication plan to bring people interested in these destinations closer to us and to let them know that it is safe to travel to places like Senegal, Cape Verde or even Guelmim itself. To let them know that they have the option that there are some procedures to comply with because they are not in the European Union, but that does not prevent them, through a visa, a permit or often not even that is necessary to break down prejudices, to travel and get to know these places.
For us this is an invitation to anyone who wants to get to know West Africa, anyone who wants to get rid of prejudices and anyone who wants to enjoy a multicultural world that we have next to Spain and that we are often unaware of.
We must remember that the Canary Islands are a border of the European Union and Europeans must bear in mind that they have an EU airline that can connect well with destinations in West Africa.
This is something we take into account every time we plan a route, and I can give as an example Lille or Toulouse, which are connected to Nouakchott or Dakar. We try, as far as possible and always taking into account strategic criteria, to ensure that people can make a stopover in Gran Canaria and can afford an alternative, so that a person from Toulouse who wants to go to Dakar does not have to go through the Charles de Gaulle hub, that is, go up and come back down again. We want to give the option of making a stopover at an airport that is also in the European Union, a medium-sized airport that will allow us to enjoy the comfort and services with a minimum of time. That is what we are trying to promote, bringing West Africa closer to the rest of Spain and Europe.
Binter has already recovered from the pandemic, but what is the situation with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the energy crisis? What is Binter's experience right now in terms of its operations and business?
There is no doubt that there is an international context that is not alien to us and that affects us directly, especially the price of fuel due to the circumstances that are occurring and that we hope will come to an end as soon as possible. It has not been an easy year. It has been a year of challenges, of trying to overcome obstacle after obstacle, but I think we have done a great job by the airline and by all the employees who have worked hard to continue opening routes, to maintain the ones we had and to encourage people to travel knowing that they can do so with us in a totally safe way in places we know perfectly well. This is what has given us very satisfactory results. There is still a lot to do, obviously we are not the same as we were four years ago, but we have made quite a lot of progress.