By Jose Ricardo Botelho, Executive Director and CEO of ALTA.
This year we embark on a new space that we call Overflying Latin America and the Caribbean to share with distinguished industry professionals perspectives on the future of aviation in the region and the work that industry and government must develop to accelerate recovery.
For this first edition, I had the pleasure of talking with the elected Secretary General of ICAO, Juan Carlos Salazar, who will take office on August 1, 2021, being the first Spanish-speaker to assume this position in the organization that represents world civil aviation. .
With more than 26 years of outstanding experience in the industry, Juan Carlos has recent achievements such as a 60% growth in the number of air transport agreements that Colombia maintains, thus improving its connectivity, in addition to important advances both domestically and internationally, positioning the country as a benchmark in global aviation.
In the 16 years prior to 2019, Latin American and Caribbean aviation had been growing at a sustained rate, with expectations of growing at a rate greater than the global average for the next 20 years. We now face a long road to recovery, for which a joint work with governments will be essential in order to plan the road map now and provide predictability to the industry and confidence to passengers.
Along these lines and on the eve of his new professional responsibilities, I shared 3 questions with Juan Carlos:
Q: What is the role of Latin American and Caribbean aviation in global aviation?
A: Aviation in Latin America and the Caribbean is a necessity. Our region depends to a great extent on aviation to be able to connect, achieve economic, cultural, family exchanges and the development of tourism that is also of great potential.
It is one of the fastest growing aviation industries and, in my perspective, within the next six years it will be the fastest growing region in air connectivity. We have that great potential and we must bring it to global aviation.
Q: What will be the watchword of your leadership and where should we focus as an industry?
A: We must focus on building trust. For the recovery of international air transport, it is necessary to build trust with governments, travelers, and health authorities. To regain ICAO leadership, it is necessary to build trust within the organization and with the industry, as well as with other international organizations and stakeholders. I think that only on a basis of building trust can we work on the real task that we will have in the next six years, which is to re-imagine air transport, how we are going to reinvent this industry so that it is viable and resilient in the new circumstances that the world might experience ,as it has been historically the case.
Q: What do you think was decisive in your career to reach this important position that will impact the future of aviation?
A: I believe that curiosity has been decisive in my career. Initially, the curiosity to understand how the air transport business worked when working with a cargo airline, later to understand how it is regulated globally and the technical aspects of this industry when doing a master’s degree in aeronautical and space law in Canada. Then there was a permanent curiosity to get to know other cultures, to improve the regulatory framework so that the industry develops faster and faster. This is an industry that allows us to meet very interesting countries and people, learn about technologies and many other things for which being curious is an asset.
The passenger today has new expectations and needs when traveling and it is urgent to work jointly to implement new harmonized standards that allow aviation to reach its great potential, provide confidence to users and benefits to our countries. I take from this conversation the keys to building confidence and, without a doubt, always maintaining curiosity to continue learning. As Albert Einstein said: “I have no special talents, I am just passionately curious.”
I appreciate your reading and I hope this space has been to your liking. Comments are always welcome.