Zambia’s air passenger traffic has continued to steadily recover and remains on course for the projected recovery to pre COVID-19 levels by 2024.
The recovery in numbers
In quarter three (3) of 2022, Zambia Airports Corporation Limited served 507,103 passengers compared to 201,118 over the same period in 2021, 53,815 passengers in 2020 and 524,853 passengers in 2019. The passenger statistics in the third quarter of 2022 represent a combined recovery of 97% to pre-COVID-19 levels, compared to recovery levels of 38% in 2021 and 10% in 2020. Overall international passengers have recovered by 91% with Kenneth Kaunda International Airport recovering fully in the same period. Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport which serves the tourism industry recorded the least recovery at 47%. Nevertheless, our airports saw more tourists arriving from various parts of the world especially Europe which is a key source market for Zambia. There is no doubt that tourists are eager to resume travelling after being grounded for close to two years. This urge has boosted the propensity for air travel, and has been a key enabler to Zambia’s aviation industry recovery in addition to the efforts being made by Government to attract investment.
The relaxation of covid-19 measures
The increase in international passenger numbers can also be attributed to the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) related travel which are key in Zambia’s passenger growth such as the hosting of the AU mid-term summit held in Lusaka in July and the 38th Annual Conference of the Association for Educational Assessment in Africa (AEAA) held in Livingstone in August. The recovery in international passengers has continued to be driven by the relaxation of COVID-19 measures due to the sustained reduction in COVID-19 positivity rates globally. International passenger traffic is expected to continue growing given the upsurge in confidence in air travel provided by increased vaccination rates and safety measures.
The Zambian Airports Authority Impact.
Overall domestic passengers have surpassed the pre-COVID-19 levels by 18% bringing the recovery in quarter three (3) to 118%. Domestic passenger numbers at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport and Solwezi Airport have all surpassed pre COVID-19 levels by 16%, 39%, 10% and 30% respectively. Mfuwe International Airport recorded the lowest recovery of 91%, translating to 9% below the pre COVID-19 traffic levels. The increase in statistics for domestic passenger movements during the quarter can be attributed to the hosting of various meetings in Livingstone such as the Law Association of Zambia Annual General Meeting and the Zambia Diaspora Conference both held in July. The competitive pricing of domestic travel provided by Zambia Airways and Proflight Zambia into Livingstone, Solwezi and Ndola have also been key enablers to the impressive domestic passenger performance. The domestic operators are key strategic partners in attaining our vision to transform Kenneth Kaunda International Airport into an aviation hub for the SADC region by the year 2030.
Cargo, mainly carried on passenger planes, was 4,614 tonnes in the third quarter of 2022 compared to 5,572 tonnes over the same period pre-COVID-19 showing a recovery of 83%.
Inbound tourism and business remain a key driver of passenger numbers in the country. The Governments pledge in the 2023 national budget speech to focus on the designing and implementation of policies and strategies to attract and secure investment in sectors such as agriculture, mining, tourism and manufacturing that will drive economic growth will greatly contribute to an increase in passenger numbers going forward. The Government also intends to commence the upgrading of aerodromes. The improvements of these aerodromes will promote tourism and trade.
Furthermore, the waiving of visa requirements for tourists from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Norway, Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, the Gulf States, and the European Union will lead to an increase in tourist visits.
by Ronnie Afema