Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the United States alone recorded 184 million passengers in one year while the total international tourist arrivals for the entire African continent as published by World Tourism Organization (WTO) 2018 report does not have up to 50 million arrivals for 2017.
The Director, Government, Legal & Industry Affairs, African Airlines Association, Mr. Aaron Munetsi has attributed this situation to the failure of governments in Africa to evolve policies that can address the challenges of low tourist traffic and the existing trade imbalance between Africa and the rest of the world.
Speaking at the Aviation Day of AKWAABA African Travel Market held on Tuesday at Eko Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria, Munetsi wondered why Africa with 419 airports, 62 airlines and 817 aircraft could not carry beyond 88 million passengers in 2018. Munetsi reminded his audience that the biggest airlines operating out of Africa are not African airlines and that only 19% of African trade is within Africa while 81% of the trade is with outsiders. Besides, only 16 out of over 54 African countries have facilities for visa on arrival. To address these challenges, Munesti called for a review of visa policies in the continent.
“Charging Africans for visa to travel within; is it out of poverty or policy?, he asked.
He said a review of the visa policies will encourage more Africans to travel by air within the continent and increase air passenger traffic.”
He equally called for a review of various airport charges and taxes that make airlines struggle to survive and render them incapable of expanding their markets and carrying enough passengers.
“An airport should be able to give airlines the frequency, availability, time and capacity to operate in order to be strong enough to play in the market and ultimately, increase traffic,” he said.
He also advised African government to review the policy of state control and ownership of airports as strategic public private partnerships have become more beneficial in attracting more traffic to airports.
Munetsi commended the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative signed in Addis Ababa, January 2018 by 23 countries stating that if implemented, it would help to boost traffic at the various airports. He said two more countries just signed on and that six other countries had indicated interest in signing on before end of 2019.
He added that the African Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) would help to boost success of African airports and overall economy of the continent.