Addis Ababa becomes the gateway to Africa

10 Jan 2019

Ethiopia has overtaken Dubai as the transfer hub for long-haul travel to Africa, thanks to the success of Ethiopian Airlines expansion drive within the continent and Prime Minister Abiy’s reforms since he took office in April.

The latest findings from Spanish travel consultancy ForwardKeys shows that the number of long-haul transfers to Africa via Addis Ababa Bole International Airport has grown in volume by 85% for five years in a row, between 2013 and 2017. Transfers via Dubai over the same period rose by 31%.

The firm analysed data from travel booking systems, which record an average of 17 million flight bookings a day, to determine the number of long-haul transfers to the region via Addis Ababa.

So far this year, Addis Ababa’s traffic growth is 18%, while Dubai stands at 3%.

This means that Addis Ababa Bole Airport, has now surpassed Dubai as the lead gateway to Africa.

Dubai has long been a major global air travel hub. Many passengers traveling between one part of the continent and another, or from Asia or Europe to Africa, must often transit through Dubai. But this is changing due to Ethiopian Airlines expansion drive, which sees it flying to more than 60 destinations in Africa and launching new destinations in the lucrative Asian market, as well as Europe.

ForwardKeys also attributed the recent hike in bookings via Addis Ababa in part to new-found confidence in the wake of reforms carried out by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed since he took office in April. These include signing a peace deal with Eritrea in July, a new e-visa policy introduced in June, which allows international visitors to apply for a visa on line and a promise to open Ethiopia’s markets to private investment.

And the rise of travel via Addis Ababa looks set to continue. International bookings for Ethiopia, for the period from this November to January 2019, are ahead by more than 40% over the same period in 2017 – well ahead of all other destinations in Africa.

Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys, said: “Sub-Saharan Africa is a market of opportunity. Across the region, carriers are increasing seat capacity on international flights by six percent on average; that is an encouraging sign. If more governments follow the go-ahead example 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.”

…Bole International Airport to become Africa’s largest

In related news, the Bole International Airport expansion will see it take over as the largest airport in Africa upon its commissioning in January 2019.

The project to expand Bole International Airport commenced in December 2015 and the expanded terminal partially commenced service in September this year after the Eastern wing was completed. At that point, the whole project was 83% completed.

The Bole expansion will make it the largest airport in Africa in terms of passenger handling capacity, besting South Africa’s O.R. Tambo Airport, which has the capacity to handle 20 million passengers a year. Bole International will have a capacity of around 22 million passengers a year.

Once completed, the airport will cement the Ethiopian aviation industry’s dominance in Africa, and possibly push it towards global prominence as well. Ethiopian Airlines is already Africa’s biggest airline by a number of metrics.

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