New routes and fresh optimism have prompted robust growth in Africa’s international flight arrivals this year according to the latest data from ForwardKeys, which predicts future global travel patterns by analysing more than 17 million booking transactions a day.
The figures were released today at AviaDev and AHIF in Kigali, the premier aviation route development and hotel investment conferences in Africa, organised by Bench Global Business Events.
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The ForwardKeys data reveal a 13.3% increase in arrivals in 2017, compared to the equivalent period last year. This was driven by a net increase of 82 routes and strong growth from the Americas, up 17.8%, Europe, up 12.7%, Africa, up 12.5% and Asia Pacific, up 16.4%.
Egypt and Tunisia are leading the recovery after the health and security concerns of 2014-16 have begun to fade. Among the top ten destinations, visitor numbers to Morocco and Tunisia were further boosted by visa exemptions for Chinese travelers.
Jon Howell, managing director of AviaDev, Africa’s leading airline route development conference, said: “I am very pleased to see such strong growth in air travel to Africa. However, it is notable that consumer demand and airline investment has been greater in travel to African countries from outside the continent than it is between African countries. I would like to think that the discussions taking place at AviaDev will encourage airlines to open more routes within the Continent too.”
Looking in to the future, bookings for travel to Africa for the rest of 2017 (from September 21st to the end of the year) are 15.2% ahead of last year, thanks to early bookings from the Americas, ahead 20.6%, and Europe, ahead 16.4%. Asia Pacific is also sustaining its growth, ahead 16.1%.
The relatively lower number for growth in bookings from the Middle East is unduly pessimistic because the Islamic New Year fell during the equivalent period last year, artificially lifting the benchmark.
In Africa as a whole, airlines’ scheduled capacity* is up, led by international long-haul, up 9%. Intra-African international capacity is up 4% and domestic capacity up 5%.
Among the top ten African airports, ranked by scheduled capacity* from September 21st to the end of the year, nine airports show growth for domestic capacity and seven for international. Durban suffered the biggest decrease in international capacity, down 19%, mainly due to Ethiopian Airlines ceasing routes from Addis Ababa, while strengthening its capacity to Cape Town. (*Source: Innovata)
Focusing specifically on the East African Community (EAC), destinations have seen strong growth of 12.2% this year, particularly from European visitors, up 16.3%. Arrivals from the Americas and Asia Pacific grew less than those traveling within Africa.
Looking forward, there’s overall growth in bookings for international arrivals in the EAC, from September 21st to the end of the year, ahead 8%. The outlook for travel from the Middle East and Asia Pacific is deceptively weak and is due to the timing of Islamic New Year and a later mid-Autumn festival in India. Those events fell within the equivalent period last year, boosting the bookings benchmark so this year’s outlook appears worse by comparison for that reason rather than any inherent weakness in the market.
Total scheduled capacity* for international flights going to the EAC, to the end of the year, is up 9% with Kigali leading the growth, up 89%, due to seven new routes, three of them originating in Brussels. Dar Es Salaam’s was the only destination showing a decline in long-haul capacity, due to Oman Air dropping its route from Muscat.
ForwardKeys co-founder and CEO, Olivier Jager, concluded: “African aviation is showing extremely healthy growth. As an international executive who has traveled around Africa for many years, I am longing for the day when it is easier to fly directly between African cities, as is possible on other continents. I am sure I’m not alone in that desire and I’m equally sure, if the strong growth continues, it will happen eventually.”