Ethiopia overtakes Dubai as top feeder of air traffic into Africa

Ethiopia takes over from Dubai as sub-Saharan Africa’s leading transfer hub.

The rise of Ethiopia as a destination and a transfer hub for long-haul travel to sub-Saharan Africa has been revealed in the latest findings from ForwardKeys, which predicts future travel patterns by analysing 17 million flight booking transactions a day.

The data shows that Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, has grown its volume of international transfer passengers to sub-Saharan Africa five years in a row (2013-2017). It also highlights that Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, which is currently being upgraded with a new terminal at a cost of $354m, has overtaken Dubai as the leading gateway to the region.

ForwardKeys found the number of long-haul transfers to sub-Saharan Africa via Addis Ababa jumped 85% from 2013 to 2017, whilst transfers via Dubai rose 31% over the same period. So far this year, Addis Ababa’s growth sits at 18%, versus 3% for Dubai.

International bookings for Ethiopia from November to January next year are ahead by more than 40% compared with the same period in 2017, and well ahead of all other destinations in sub-Saharan Africa.

The increase in international flights to Ethiopia has been attributed to new-found confidence in the wake of reforms carried out by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed since he took over office in April. These include the signing of a peace deal with Eritrea in July, a new e-visa policy introduced in June, which allows all international visitors to apply for a visa online, and a promise to open Ethiopia’s markets to private investment.

According to ForwardKeys, bookings for international visitors to sub-Saharan destinations, from November 2018 to January 2019 see Ethiopia coming in first, with 40.4% year-on-year growth. Other countries that follow include:

  • Kenya: 24.4 % year-on-year growth.
  • Zambia: 11.8% year-on-year growth.
  • Nigeria: 11.5% year-on-year growth.
  • Zimbabwe: 7.3% year-on-year growth.
  • Tanzania: 7% year-on-year growth.

Whilst visitors to Ethiopia and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa are coming from across the globe, Europe dominates as a source market, according to the ForwardKeys findings, as there has been 4% growth since the start of the year. By contrast, growth in visitors from the Asia-Pacific region is somewhat sluggish, up just 1% since the start of the year.

The findings were released by Forward Keys Vice President, Olivier Ponti, at the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Africa Leaders Forum in Stellenbosch, South Africa.


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