African travellers are willing to spend up to 27% more on air travel, even though they believe air tickets to be “too expensive”, should there be more visa-free access on the continent.

This is according to global technology company Sabre Corporation’s latest findings published in the recently released ‘The African Traveller Report 2019’.

Over 5 000 people from three sub-Saharan African countries – Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa – were surveyed about their air travel habits, with only 26% saying they had travelled by air over the past two years. This is 2% more than the 2016 period, the report revealed.

“It is encouraging to see that a greater number of people have been able to access air travel over the past three years,” said Dino Gelmetti, Vice President of Sales for Sabre Corporation Middle East and Africa. 

“However, our research shows that there is still a long way to go to make travel affordable and accessible,” he said.

Some of the reasons for travellers’ reluctance to fly included the high cost of air tickets, as well as difficulties experienced in booking flights, flight delays, queues at the airport and an overall stressful experience.

Most significantly, however, according to Gelmetti, is that those who had travelled by air said they would increase their average number of flights to two to three trips a year, compared with the current one or two trips.

Further, those surveyed said if they could travel more freely, the countries that were top on their tourism lists included South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Kenya and Botswana.

In recent interviews with Tourism Update, both the Airlines Association of Southern Africa and the Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa (Barsa) highlighted that, should visa issues and other problem areas – such as safety and security – be addressed, tourism numbers would increase.

The airline industry, through these associations, is working with the Department of Home Affairs and the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, to address these pain points.

Last month, the DHA launched an electronic visa pilot project for Kenyans, and Kubayi-Ngubane told Tourism Update she had embarked on a tour to West Africa to promote tourism to South Africa in Ghana and Nigeria.

“Government has recently waived the need for visas in Ghana and we are exploring the idea of doing the same for Nigeria,” she said.

June Crawford, CEO of Barsa, added that alliances between African airlines should be put back on the agenda and pursued with determination.