New routes and fresh optimism have prompted robust growth in Africa’s international flight arrivals this year according to the latest data from ForwardKeys. The latest figures released by the company, which predicts future global travel patterns by analysing more than 17 million booking transactions a day, 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%.
Speaking at the joint AviaDev aviation route development and AHIF hotel investment conferences in Kigali, Rwanda, ForwardKeys said 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 travellers.
Looking in to the future, bookings for travel to Africa for the rest of 2017 (from 21-Sep-2017 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%, according to ForwardKeys. Asia Pacific is also sustaining its growth, ahead 16.1%. A relatively lower number for growth in bookings from the Middle East of just 0.9% is “unduly pessimistic” according to the company, because the Islamic New Year fell during the equivalent period last year, artificially lifting the benchmark.
In Africa as a whole, ForwardKeys notes that 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 21-Sep-2017 to the end of the year, nine airports show growth for domestic capacity and seven for international. Durban’s King Shaka International Airport 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.
Looking specifically at the East African Community (EAC), destinations have seen strong growth of 12.2% this year, according to the data, particularly from European visitors, up 16.3%. Arrivals from the Americas and Asia Pacific grew less than those travelling within Africa.
Looking forward, there is overall growth in bookings for international arrivals in the EAC, from 21-Sep-2017 to the end of the year, says ForwardKeys, ahead 8%. The outlook for travel from the Middle East and Asia Pacific is deceptively weak and is again due to the timing of Islamic New Year and also 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,” says ForwardKeys.
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. Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania was the only destination showing a decline in long haul capacity, due to Oman Air dropping its route from Muscat.
CHART – Kigali shows the largest growth in long haul capacity into East Africa’s main gateways for the remainder of the year, while Bujumbura sees the largest growth of intra-Africa capacity in the same periodSource: ForwardKeys