In the wake of reforms being championed by the Ethiopian administration, the country has emerged as a premium destination for long-haul travel to sub-Saharan Africa in 2018.
The Bole International Airport in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa has overtaken Dubai as the leading gateway to the region, cites data from the travel intelligence agency ForwardKeys.
On the back of this, travel bookings between November 2018 and January 2019, are set to grow by 40% which is way ahead when compared to other destinations across Africa. The figure will be an increase from January to October 2018 growth predictions which was at 12.2%.
More about this
“Some of Ethiopia’s increase in international flight bookings can be attributed to new-found confidence in the wake of reforms carried out by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed since he took the oath of office in April,” Olivier Ponti, the Deputy President of ForwardKeys said when presenting the findings of the report during a presentation at the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Africa Leaders Forum in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
The reforms the travel agency specifically mentioned were 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.
These have attracted the country to many international travellers, the agency said.
The latest development has also been attributed to the successes of the state carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest airline that flies to more destinations within the continent than any other airline
With its operational hub at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Airlines operates flights to more than 113 passenger destinations, with an additional 35 destinations for freights.
The Ethiopian carrier has secondary hubs in Togo and Malawi, and has resuscitated non-operational airlines including Zambia’s, and also collaborated with airlines in Chad and Mozambique.
The multi-award winning airline, with its modernized fleet, new aircraft maintenance hangars, and world-class in-flight catering facility has over the years experienced rapid growth, increased profitability, and made an outstanding contribution to aviation development in Africa, registering an average growth of 25% in the past seven years.
Ethiopian is currently implementing a 15-year strategic plan called Vision 2025 that will make it the leading aviation group in Africa with six business centres: Ethiopian International Services; Ethiopian Cargo & Logistics Services; Ethiopian MRO Services; Ethiopian Aviation Academy; Ethiopian ADD Hub Ground Services and Ethiopian Airports Services. The plan is to also improve the carrier’s cargo transport, airport services, expand its aviation school and passenger handling.
After the completion of the $345 million upgrades, Bole Airport in Addis Ababa is expected to raise the capacity of annual travellers from 7 to 22 million.
ForwardKeys adds that while Ethiopia remains a destination for travellers from the Sub-Saharan regions and different areas across the globe, a majority come from Europe.
“Sub-Saharan Africa is a market of opportunity. Across the region, carriers are increasing seat capacity on international flights by +6 on average; that is an encouraging sign,” said Ponti.
Founded in 1945 by Emperor Haile Selassie, Ethiopian Airlines is one of a few profitable national carriers operating in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a member of the Star Alliance and one of the fastest-growing airlines in the global aviation industry.
In 2016, the airline reported a net profit of $265 million. The results reflected an 18 percent increase in passenger numbers over the year.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was endorsed by the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister on April 2. It is the hope of many that the new leader would bring calm to Africa’s second most populous nation after it was hit by months of protests against human rights abuses and violence perpetrated by the security forces.
Ethiopia has faced unrest since 2015 after the arrest of students and opposition figures in the Oromia region who were demonstrating against unfair treatment and abuses by the EPRDF government. Thousands of protesters were jailed and many died in the process.
The attacks and arrests by security forces were condemned by international agencies and partners resulting in measures instituted by the government to address the issues which are still lingering.
Hailemariam Desalegn who has been prime minister since 2012 subsequently resigned saying that he sees his resignation “as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy.”
When voted in by parliament as the country’s new leader, Ahmed vowed to ensure good governance and deal with corruption that was having a toll on the country’s economy. He also promised to deal with ethnic conflicts in the country, that have displaced over 2 million people since last year.
In July, Ahmed met his country’s longtime adversary, the Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki, and the two countries smoked the peace pipe and restored diplomatic relations after nearly 20 years of conflict.
Ahmed has since made attempts to reconcile with several rebel groups in the country and he is now optimistic that the women he has brought on board his government would help in restoring peace and stability.