Destination Africa: Big growth in international arrivals

Africa is seeing a significant growth in international air travellers – arrivals were up 10.3% between September 2016 and January this year. Europe remained the leading source market with a 47.3% share, while Asia Pacific was the fastest growing, up 21.7%.

The encouraging figures for the continent’s economy are released today by ForwardKeys, which monitors future travel patterns by analysing 16 million flight reservation transactions each day.

The data comes ahead of the influential Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) which will again run alongside AviaDev Africa in Kigali, Rwanda on October 10 to 12. Organised by Bench Events it brings together leading executives and investors from the worlds of aviation and hotels, alongside top government officials and politicians.

Wolfgang Neumann, President & CEO, The Rezidor Hotel Group, said: “We have been making strategic investments in Africa in line with our accelerated growth strategy for our most important emerging market. This exceptionally positive report is most affirming and if the air traffic growth is sustained, further investment in hotel development will surely flow.” 

Eight out of the top ten Africa destinations saw good year-end performance; some were rebounding from the impact of the Ebola crisis; wildlife destinations have been regaining their popularity, and Egypt and Tunisia recovered from safety and security concerns. Morocco’s strong performance was partly due to the visa waiver for Chinese tourists beginning in June 2016. Mauritius island beach retreat continued to attract international visitors.

There were set-backs, however, for Ethiopia and Nigeria, both seeing a fall in intra-Africa international visitors. Ethiopia also saw fewer tourists from Northern Europe and the Middle East compared to the same period last year.

All the top 15 origin countries for Africa destinations contributed to the overall increase. But African markets – South Africa and Kenya – lagged behind the other long-haul origin countries in terms of growth. China’s outstanding 35.9% growth can partly be accounted for by the timing of the Chinese New Year.

Looking to the immediate future, the good news continues for Africa. Forward bookings for international arrivals, February to July, are 17.3% ahead of last year. Egypt is leading the top ten field on 48.5%. Advance bookings for the Easter holidays are particularly well advanced.

Europe and the Americas are leading the surge in forward bookings to Africa partly because of Easter holiday bookings. Brazil has also skyrocketed – 148% – as it emerges from economic gloom. China is behind on last year because of the shift in Chinese New Year celebrations.

Focusing on the East African Community (EAC) – Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania – arrivals were up 16.4% from September 2016 to January this year. The top ten origin countries all sustained their places from earlier in the year, including African markets which also saw growth, Kenya up 6.4% and Uganda 11.7%.

The future is also looking good for the EAC, with forward bookings from February to July for the region currently running 16.5% ahead of the equivalent period last year.

ForwardKeys says long-haul connectivity could be improved for all EAC key airports – Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta is the only one with connections beyond Europe and the Middle East. And Kigali is the only one to see double-digit growth in international capacity for both long-haul and intra-Africa routes.

“These numbers give cause for genuine optimism”, John Mirenge, the Chief Executive Officer of RwandAir said. “If the growth is sustained throughout the year and beyond, it will be good for our fast growing airline. Considering this growth and other facets of the aviation industry in Africa, very productive discussions are expected from AviaDev Africa summit in October this year, with all parties interested to explore the opening of new routes.”


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