Insights on Africa’s travel recovery
Travel to Africa appears on course to recover from the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Green shoots are emerging across the continent ahead of the Q4 peak season as long-haul travellers from key European and North American markets regain their appetite for travel to Africa.
As of Q3 2022, global travel has recovered to -38% behind pre-pandemic levels, with the best-performing regions being the Middle East (-19%), Africa (-19%) and the Americas (-20%), while APAC (-71%) is yet to see a meaningful rebound.
However, true recovery appears to be on the horizon, and we can expect global arrivals to accelerate to -31% behind pre-pandemic levels. In Q4, the Middle East is expected to establish itself as the most resilient region in terms of recovery against pre-Covid levels, while the reopening of markets in Asia and Australasia will provide a much-needed spark for APAC’s reactivation.
What to expect for Africa in Q4
Africa’s recovery in Q4 is spearheaded by long-haul arrivals, which are approaching 2019 levels at -20%, while intra-African travel remains far behind at -48%. If the intra-Africa travel segment is fully tapped into, the continent will be poised to make an even more robust recovery.
By region, Central (+31%) and West Africa (0%) are the best performers, with their recovery set to accelerate as the Christmas holidays approach. Growth in these regions is mainly fuelled by VFR, whereas recovery in East Africa, which is edging closer to pre-pandemic levels at -14%, is driven by interest in safari destinations. North Africa’s strong performance (-14%) is attributable to pent-up demand from Europe; and despite trailing other regions, Southern Africa (-38%) is showing signs of reactivation.
There is a resurgence from leisure destinations heading into Q4, among which Reunion (+25%) is benefiting from French travellers seeking exotic breaks and Tanzania (+7%) is experiencing renewed interest from Europe. Meanwhile, improvements in air connectivity from the US are paying dividends for Ghana, which will receive a combination of VFR and leisure travel from Western markets. The recovery of other African destinations will gather pace as the holidays draw near.
Top-performing source markets
France will be the first source market to exceed pre-pandemic performance (+4%), while the USA and UK are approaching full recovery. In addition, Spain has proved surprisingly resilient, with Spanish travellers showing a heightened interest in safari destinations.
In long-haul travel, long stays are the most resilient segment having achieved full recovery. Although mainly connected to VFR, they include leisure tourism and remote working. Leisure-based short stays and business travel, while lagging in their reactivation, are recovering gradually.
There is also strong demand for premium-class travel – which often corresponds with increased interest in high-end services at the destination – particularly to Reunion, Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia. The top high-value source markets for Africa are France, Australia and the US.
Source markets showing appetite
When we examine flight searches for travel to South Africa, German, British and American travellers are showing the most interest. It is especially promising to see that Australian travellers are demonstrating travel intent again following the removal of the country’s tough travel restrictions.
Long-haul visitors remain critical to Africa’s recovery, but there is a significant opportunity for destinations to tap into intracontinental travel. Enhancements in intra-Africa air connectivity will be vital to seizing these opportunities.
Destinations on the continent should also grasp the opportunities presented by new source markets and traveller profiles. Ultimately, the success of African destinations in the post-Covid landscape will depend on their ability to adapt.
Travel and tourism is critical to the economic health of most countries in Africa, facilitating investment and job creation. The upcoming quarter presents a golden opportunity to claw back some of the losses incurred at the height of the pandemic.