Addis Ababa Overtakes Dubai as Gateway to Africa

Addis-Ababa-hub-to-AfricaNovember 29, 2018 (Ezega.com) - As political reforms take shape in Africa, Ethiopia has emerged as a premium destination for long-haul travel to the continent in 2018. The astonishing rise of the country as a possible destination for travelers visiting Sub-Saharan Africa has caught Ethiopia’s neighbors by surprise.

But what does the good news mean for Ethiopia?

As reported by ForwardKeys, a leading agency in predicting travel patterns globally, Addis Ababa has witnessed a surge in the volume of international travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa in the last five years (2013-2017). ForwardKeys analyzes more than 17 million bookings a day, and they employ some of the best analysts and technologies to predict travel patterns, making their findings credible.

Their findings also highlight Addis Ababa’s Bole airport, which is under upgrade at a cost of $345 million, has outdone Dubai as the leading gateway in the region. Travel bookings between November 2018 and January 2019, are set to grow by 40% based on their predictions, which is way ahead compared to other destinations across Africa. This is good news, bearing in mind January-October predictions stood at 12.2%.

The findings were released by Olivier Ponti, the Deputy President of ForwardKeys during a presentation at the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Africa Leaders Forum in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Of particular concern to Ponti was Ethiopia’s “extraordinary rise.”

“Some of Ethiopia’s increase in international flight bookings can be attributed to new-found confidence in the wake of reforms carried out by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed since he took the oath of office in April.” He said.

Strategic Approaches

This progress has been attributed to the successes of the Ethiopian Airlines that has been dominant in the region in the last decade. Via strategic collaborations and investments, quality customer care and airline acquisitions, the state carrier has revolutionized air travel in Africa.

Ethiopian Airlines resuscitated non-operational airlines comprising Zambia’s, collaborated with airlines in Chad and Mozambique, and created hubs in Togo and Malawi. The airline has more than 60 destinations across Africa.

As the state-owned carrier continues with its growth and progress, its Chief Executive Tewolde Gabremariam has revealed the airline’s Pan-African plan proposing it should be co-owned by African regimes.

Also, in a bid to improve customer service, the airline is engaged in the implementation of the vision 2025. The plan is to see the carrier improve on cargo transport, airport services, expand its aviation school and passenger handling. Upon completion of the $345 million upgrades, Bole Airport in Addis Ababa is expected to raise the capacity of annual travelers from 7 to 22 million.

The airline also acted as a symbol of peace when it decided to fly to Eritrea for the first time this century and resumed flights to Mogadishu for the first time after a 41 year absence.

As part of a new strategy, the country commenced re-issuing e-visas to all visitors in June. In November, they began issuing all African visitors a visa-on-arrival. As reported by Forwardkeys; “The relaxed visa approach is crucial if state-owned airlines are to attract international travelers.”

An example is how Tunisia and Morocco have managed to attract a significant number of travelers using a liberalized visa. Over the last few years, Chinese tourists have frequented the two countries and they come with significant investments in the region.

International Visitors

While Ethiopia remains a destination for travelers from the Sub-Saharan regions and different areas across the globe, a majority come from Europe according to ForwardKeys’ findings.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is a market of opportunity. Across the region, carriers are increasing seat capacity on international flights by +6 on average; that is an encouraging sign.” Said Ponti.

A promising Future

In Africa, the battle for the skies is ragging. Ethiopian Airlines have emerged as the possible victor in the economic space. With an ambitious strategic goal that has seen the carrier open new destinations like in Manchester, Africa’s largest carrier is set to dominate the airline space in the continent.

“Twenty percent of the market is dominated by African Airlines and eighty by non-African carriers,” said the CEO of the national carrier.
Conclusion

Ethiopian Airlines has a place in the global space. It is yet to take control, but it is headed there. The response of many African carriers is erratic, so the carrier will dominate the African Airspace, at least for now.

The carrier is in a unique position. Despite the challenges in the African continent---the rapidly growing economies and increasing populations--- it has held strong and continue to prosper.

Olivier Ponti summarizes it for us:

“If more governments follow the go-ahead examples set by Ethiopia, including reducing conflict and taking advantage of the benefits that can flow from more relaxed visa policies, I would expect to see a healthy growth in Tourism in 2019.”

The carrier is not yet there but the world should watch out.

By Solomon Mboya for Ezega News


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