International air travel to Africa surpasses pre-covid arrival, revenue levels
The full resumption of operations on international routes by African airlines and also the return of Chinese tourists to Africa have contributed to the fact that some countries on the continent have now surpassed pre-covid arrival numbers and revenue levels.
Three African countries — Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa — are now on China’s list of 20 destinations across the globe for piloting outbound group tours, nearly a month after lifting travel restrictions. The latest World Tourism Barometer published by the United Nations World Travel Organization (UNWTO) confirms the return of Chinese tourists will significantly boost Africa’s international arrival numbers and push them to 2019 levels. And the resumption of entire operations and re-introduction of higher capacity aircraft on African routes in 2023 is yet another indicator of a rebounding tourism industry, badly hit by the covid-19 pandemic two years ago.
In a recent speech, China Tourism Academy President Dai Bin said destination Africa needed to optimize its promotion strategy and improve its hospitality system for the Chinese market to unlock its vast growth potential. In 2019, Chinese international outbound arrivals were recorded at 155 million — more than double Africa’s inbound arrivals, which totaled 68.8 million in that period. Africa has so far recovered about 65% of its pre-pandemic visitor numbers following a more than doubling of international arrivals from 19.4 million in 2021 to 45 million in 2022.
According to the UNWTO Barometer, for example, Morocco’s tourism receipts grew 6% in the first ten to twelve months of 2022, while Ethiopia’s arrivals had risen 3% above pre-pandemic levels.