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IATA revises 2020 passenger traffic forecast down for Africa and Middle East

Four airlines across Africa have ceased operations due to the impact of COVID-19 and two are in voluntary administration, with many more in serious financial distress.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) downgraded its traffic forecast for Africa for 2020 to reflect a weaker-than-expected recovery.

  • IATA now expects full-year 2020 passenger numbers in Africa (to/from/within) to reach only 30% of 2019 levels, down significantly from the 45% that was projected in July
  • In absolute numbers, the region is expected to see around 45 million travelers in 2020 compared to the 155 million in 2019
  • In 2021, demand is expected to strengthen to 45% of 2019 levels to reach close to 70 million travelers to/from/within the region.
  • A full return to 2019 levels is not expected until late 2023.

Forward bookings for air travel in the fourth quarter show that the recovery continues to falter. While domestic travel is picking up across Africa as countries re-open their borders, international travel remains heavily constrained as major markets including the EU remain closed to citizens of African nations. Currently, residents from only two African countries– Rwanda and Tunisia – are permitted to enter EU borders. 

“The further fall in passenger traffic in 2020 is more bad news for the aviation industry in Africa.  A few months ago, we thought that demand reaching 45% across the continent in 2020 compared to 2019 was as grim as it could get. But with international travel remaining virtually non-existent and a slower than expected pick up in domestic travel, we have revised our expectations downward to 30%,” said Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.

More airlines expected to fold without Committed Relief  
Four airlines across Africa have ceased operations due to the impact of COVID-19 and two are in voluntary administration, with many more in serious financial distress. Without urgent financial relief more carriers and their employees are at risk, as is the wider African air transport industry, which supports 7.7 million jobs on the continent.

The governments of Rwanda, Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have pledged a total of USD 311 million in direct financial support to air transport. A further USD 30 billion has been promised by some governments, international finance bodies and other institutions including the African Development Bank, African Export Import Bank, African Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for air transport and tourism.  However, most of this relief is yet reach those in need. 

“Hundreds of thousands of airline jobs are at risk if there is a systemic failure in African aviation. And this is not just in aviation but across industries that depend on efficient global connectivity. Much needed financial relief has been pledged, but little has materialized. The situation is critical. Governments and donor organizations need to act fast or the challenge will move from supporting an industry in severe distress to resurrection from bankruptcy,” said Albakri.

  • Full-year 2020 passenger numbers in the Middle East (to/from/within) are forecast to reach only 30% of 2019 levels, down significantly from the 45% that was projected in July
  • In absolute numbers, the Middle East is expected to see 60 million travelers in 2020 compared to the 203 million in 2019
  • In 2021, demand in the Middle East is expected to strengthen to 45% of 2019 levels to reach 90 million travelers to/from/within the region.
  • A full return to 2019 levels is not expected until late 2024

Regional travel picked up across the Middle East from the low point in April as countries in the region re-opened their borders, however international travel has remained heavily constrained owing to the return of government restrictions in the face of new COVID-19 outbreaks in a number of key markets. Forward bookings for air travel in the fourth quarter show a much slower recovery than had been expected previously.  

“The slower than anticipated return to the skies for travelers in the Middle East is more bad news for the region’s aviation industry. A few months ago, we thought that a fall in passenger numbers to 45% of 2019 levels was as bad as it could get. But the second wave, combined with continuing travel restrictions and quarantines, will result in passenger numbers in the region being less than a third of what we had in 2019. This heightens the urgency for governments to adopt systematic COVID-19 testing to restart travel and curb the economic devastation that is being caused because people cannot travel,” said Muhammad Albakri.

Vicky Karantzavelou
Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | Website

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.

She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.

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