BRITISH AIRWAYS is boosting local small businesses with the launch of a R29million Business Opportunity Grants initiative, the carrier said yesterday.
The campaign is aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs to participate in "face-to-face" interactions with their international partners.
BA will provide 50 qualifying small South African businesses a total of 10 Club World (business class) tickets valid for travel to any destination in the world for a year.
Only registered companies with 250 employees or less will be eligible for selection.
BA commercial manager Sue Botes said the campaign was a way of "getting the business environment going" after the global recession.
"We encourage small business operators to start applying today on the website, www.ba.com/safrica-grants and tell us more about their businesses and how these tickets would help them.
"This is another way of giving back to communities which we serve, and we urge them to share the success stories of how this initiative helped them."
The carrier's campaign was inspired by a recent Harvard Business Review study, which found that 95percent of business people believed that face-to-face meetings were important in establishing and maintaining long-term relationships and "sealing" the deal.
According to the airline, the economic downturn has seen businesses travel budgets internationally slashed by more than 56percent over the past year and South Africa was no exception.
BA has already launched similar campaigns in the US, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and India.
BA spokesperson Stephen Forbes said another objective was to be a "catalyst" to help small businesses grow.
"We are not pretending to be experts in small businesses, hence we are helping them through our core business which is air transportation."
The initiative is also supported by former Vodacom chief executive Alan Knott-Craig and Nkhensani Nkosi, founder of the Stoned Cherrie fashion label.