Survey: International air arrivals on steady growth curve

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Nairobi, Kenya: Kenya beat rivals South Africa and Egypt, on the leading African destinations for international arrivals in a new report released by flight monitoring company, ForwardKeys.

The report, which compares flight reservation data from more than 16 million transactions daily seeks to shed light on the positioning of African destinations on the global tourism map, ahead of the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) in October.

Kenya contributed to 18.2 per cent of the total arrivals in the period under survey (September 2016-January 2017), as compared to Egypt’s 17.2 percent and South Africa’s 12.1 percent. However, despite having one on the continent’s most connected airports, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), the country still lost the top position to neighbouring Tanzania who led the pack at 19.3 per cent.

Overall, the continent registered growth in international arrivals, going up by 10.3 per cent for the period quoted. Europe remained the leading source of tourists at 47.3 per cent, while Asia Pacific made a mark as the fastest growing market; up 21.7 per cent as compared to the rest.

The report further attributes Asia’s growth to factors such as relaxed requirements for travelers from the region; visa waiver by Morocco, reviewed restrictions by South Africa, direct flights to Kenya as well as the timing of the Chinese New Year celebrations.


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Although most of the top ten African destinations saw good year-end performance; Ethiopia and Nigeria fell short of expectations owing to a decrease in intra-Africa international arrivals, making a worrying drop of 4.0 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively.

Ethiopia also saw a drop in tourists from Europe and Middle East compared to the same period last year.

On regional basis, the East African Community (EAC) arrivals were up 16.4 per cent from September 2016 to January this year, mostly retaining their (source) countries of origin. In a quick forecast, the report predicts a 16.5 per cent growth in arrivals for the first half of 2017 (H1), as compared to the same period last year.”

Commenting on the report, Estelle Verdier, the Managing Director for Jumia Travel; an online platform offering all-round travel services such as flights, hotels and holiday packages across Africa said, this report buoys our confidence in the continent’s potential for growth in air traffic, which is directly proportionate to growth in tourism.

“Overall, we expect more interest by international hotel brands to invest in Africa, as well as attract investment in businesses and conventions of global magnitudes.”

The report cites inadequate provision of long-haul connectivity in the EAC as a challenge, naming Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as the only one with connections beyond Europe and Middle East. Kigali on the other hand is the only regional city capital to record double-digit growth in international capacity for both long-haul and intra-Africa routes.

A sneak into the immediate future reveals a 17.3 per cent growth inforward international bookings across the continent for the H1, with the Easter period attaining a remarkable high of 53.1 per cent of total arrivals, followed by the month of June at 26.4 per cent. Not surprising, Europe and the America’s lead the surge in forward bookings, while new ally, China lags behind; perhaps dues to the shift in New Year celebrations.


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The survey was conducted ahead of the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) which will again run alongside AviaDev Africa in Kigali, Rwanda on October 10th to 12th. The three day conference will bring together stakeholders and players from the tourism industry, including aviation, tour operators, OTAs, and hotel development communities seeking to gain a better understanding of Africa’s tourism economy and different aspects impacting the industry.

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