UK tourism agency responds to Virgin Atlantic Ghana operations suspension

virgin_atlantic_2The immediate impact of suspension of operations by Virgin Atlantic, one of the airlines offering direct flights from Ghana to the UK is not immediately known, according to an official of Visit Britain, the tourism agency of the country.

Visit Britain says 8000 visitors arrive in the UK from Ghana every year.

Virgin Atlantic announced Thursday June 6, 2013, that it would suspend operations on the Ghana-UK route, flying its last flight on September 23, 2013 due to “exceptionally high fuel costs, a challenging wider economic environment and an inability to operate morning arrivals from Accra due to scarcity of slots at Heathrow.”

The airline has been operating in Ghana only for three years. It started operations May 24, 2010.

Answering questions from journalists during a presentation at the offices of the tourism agency in London, Chris Foy, the Head of Overseas Operations of Visit Britain said, he is not sure how the suspension of services by Virgin would affect tourism in the country.

“If another airline that offers flights on that same route takes over Virgin’s slot, then there would be no impact,” he said, apart from that, he said he is unsure how that could impact tourism targets to the UK. British Airways is the other airline that offers direct flights between the UK and Ghana.

The agency is targeting 4.6 million visitors to the UK in four years from 2012 to 2015 and projects £2.3 billion spend over the period, he said.

Britain currently receives 31 million visitors yearly from around Europe and 4.9 million from what he describes as ‘the rest of the world’, he told the journalists, adding that the country is using the media exposure and opportunity it received during the 2012 London Olympic Games to continue to attract visitors to the country.

“The strategy is to keep the high profile that the Games brought to the country for as long as possible,” Foy said.

Meanwhile, Virgin is the third international carrier to suspend operations in Ghana within a year.

Just two years after launching in Ghana, United Airlines stopped flying direct to Washington DC from Accra in April 2012. Another US airline, Delta Airlines cut its flights from Accra to Atlanta in the same year.

Delta Airlines suspended its service between Atlanta and Accra, Ghana, and Monrovia, Liberia in August 2012, citing “persistently high jet fuel prices and fluctuations in passenger demand” as the reasons.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, in London, UK

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