By Khalifa Hemed
Published August 17, 2017
Air travel performance in East Africa shows a healthy growth to the end of 2017. Though Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and entry into East Africa, is seeing a 22% boost in domestic air travel capacity, the most significant capacity increase in the region is Kigali in Rwanda which has new routes to Brussels in Belgium, London in England and Mumbai in India.
This is according to an analysis of seat capacity for travel to the top ten international airports in Africa by ForwardKeys, a company that predicts future travel patterns. The report shows that airports in Africa’s top ten travel destinations have seen a double-digit growth in flight arrivals for the first half of 2017 and there is little indication that the pace of growth will slow down.
The report, which airlines, governments and hoteliers are to find useful, shows that in the first seven months of 2017, total international flight arrivals grew by 14% over the same period in 2016. Most significantly, growth was stronger for travel to and from the continent than within the continent.
Arrivals from Europe, which make up 46% of the market, were up 13.2%. From the Americas, arrivals were up 17.6%; from the Middle East, they were up 14.0% and from Asia Pacific, they were up 18.4%. By comparison, intra-African air travel, which makes up 26% of the market, was up 12.6%.
The analysis shows stand-out performances from Tunisia and Egypt, which are recovering from notorious terrorist attack, up 33.5% and 24.8%, respectively. In addition, Morocco and Tunisia received a huge boost in arrivals from China, up 450% and 250%, respectively, after they relaxed visa restrictions.
Nigeria, however, has seen a 0.8% drop in the wake of recession in 2016 that was caused by a collapse in the oil price to a 13-year low.
Jon Howell, Managing Director of AviaDev, Africa’s leading airline route development conference, says, “One of the major reasons for falling arrivals by air to Nigeria, is the fact that many airlines could not repatriate funds after the currency crisis in 2016. As a result, Iberia and United Airlines have ceased operations to Nigeria, whilst Emirates and the other foreign carriers have scaled back services. The Nigerian airlines have suffered too and so this void has been filled by the ever-opportunistic Ethiopian Airlines, who began serving their fifth Nigerian destination, Kaduna on 1st August 2017 and are now the largest carrier in the Nigerian market.”
Looking forward to the end of the calendar year, bookings for flights to Africa are currently 16.8% ahead of where they were on July 31st, 2016. Bookings from Europe are currently 17.5% ahead, from the Americas 26.6% ahead, from Asia Pacific 11.5% ahead, from the Middle East 8.2% ahead and bookings for intra-African air travel are 11.0% ahead.