According to data from travel intelligence agency FowardKeys, Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport has overtaken Dubai to become the leading gateway to Africa. Fostered by major political reforms and relaxed visa rules, Ethiopia has emerged as the destination and transfer hub for long-haul travel to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2018.
Tantamount to this development, travel bookings between November 2018 and January 2019 will likely grow more than 40 percent based on a year-on-year growth. Given the January to October prediction for Ethiopia, which was 12.2 percent, the East African country has with the recent figures blasted ahead of other African destinations.
Ethiopian Airlines has dominated the African skies in the last ten years. Amalgamating strategic investments and partnerships, airline buyouts and premium service delivery, the state carrier has rejuvenated cross-Africa travel.
The airline is currently planning to make Addis Ababa Bole International Airport a global aviation hub, which is in no way shy from its ambition to become a world-class airline. In a conversation with Xhinua, ET CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said the airline is chomping at bit to boost lagging facilities such as in-customer service, airport entertainment for transit passengers and Wi-Fi connection.
Per customer service, ET currently is implementing its Vision 2025 – a plan to better its passenger and cargo transport, increase airport services and enlarge its aviation academy. The airline has also sent in motion an expansion plan at the airport, which is being funded with USD 345 Mn by China. The project is expected to raise the annual passenger capacity to 22 million, up from 7 million. Effective just Sunday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed inaugurated the renovated airport, which has been expanded three times.
“The plan to make Addis Ababa a global aviation hub will have a tremendous impact, because when you enter market competition of the airlines, what’s visible to the public is the airplanes, but there’s also significant competition on ground services,” he added.
Gebremariam also revealed that Africa’s largest air carrier is working on relieving congestion in Addis Ababa International Airport by establishing regional hubs such as in Lome, Togo to service West Africa region and in Lilongwe, Malawi to service southern Africa region.
E-visas will also be rolled out by Ethiopia as part of the airline reform. This, which is effective June, will be followed by a November introduction of visa-on-arrival for all African visitors. According to FowardKeys, these relaxed policies will be crucial for Ethiopia to attract more international travelers. Liberalized visa applications in Morocco and Tunisia saw the significant entry of Chinese tourists in the last few years, which brought in the world’s top tourism spenders to Africa.