North Africa is re-emerging as a major travel and tourism force in Africa, after a dip in the last few years.
Since the Arab Spring protests in late 2010, concerns over security slowed travel to key North African countries. However, an analysis of seat capacity for travel to the top ten international airports in Africa shows significant growth in flight arrivals to the continent with North Africa accounting for much of the growth.
Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco all saw more than a 20% increase in international arrivals in the first half of 2017. Morocco and Tunisia particularly have China to thank for a huge boost (450% and 250% increase in arrivals respectively) to their arrival figures after both countries relaxed visa restrictions for Chinese nationals.
A report by ForwardKeys, a travel industry research firm, says there’s “little indication that the pace of growth will slow down soon.”
But elsewhere, Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, saw a 0.8% dip in international arrivals with the country’s economic troubles cited as a factor.
Nigeria’s travel downturn will only get worse as the report projects that in the second half of the year, Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, will experience “substantial declines” in its domestic and international capacity. From August to December 2017, the report predicts, Lagos will see 9% fewer seats on international routes. On domestic routes, the drop is sharper with 16% fewer airline seats expected.
Nigeria’s decline in capacity is linked to a dollar shortage crisis which has seen major international airlines like United shut down operations citing difficulties repatriating dollar profits. But there are also local problems, Arik Air, Nigeria’s largest airline, is expected to cut seats by 53% for the rest of 2017, the report says. The debt-ridden airline was taken over by the government earlier this year to “save the aviation industry from collapse.” As of February, Arik Air accounted for 55% of Nigeria’s passenger traffic.
Overall, Asia Pacific has accounted for the highest increase in international arrivals despite making up only 8% of the market. Intra-Africa travel has also been on the up, increasing by almost 13%.