A new research report released by Sabre, a global travel technology provider, estimates that the introduction of the pan-African passport will lead to a 24% increase in travel spending on the African continent.
The study found that “air travel remains inaccessible to [the] majority of African citizen” and that only 23% of Africans have travelled by air in the past 24 months. With such low numbers of Africans traveling by air – mainly due to issues that airlines are able to control – the introduction of the pan-African passport which will eliminate the need for Africans to obtain visas for travel within the continent will increase the amount each person spends on travel. Currently, only 13 of the 55 African countries allow all Africans to enter their country without a visa or to get one on arrival.
At present, the annual travel spend per person is $US 1149 and Sabre projects this to increase to $US 1508 per person once the pan-African passport is introduced. The potential spend per person on ancillaries (extras including in-flight WiFi, food and beverages, entertainment and travel insurances) is also projected to increase from $US 90 to $US 104. Aside from the reason of not being able to get a visa, all other reasons put forward by Africans interviewed by Sabre as to why they cannot or do not travel, are reasons that can be controlled by the airline companies themselves.
The creation and launch of the pan-African passport is an initiative of the African Union (AU) and was launched during the 27th AU Summit held in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, in July 2016. During this Summit, Dr Dlamini-Zuma, the outgoing Chairperson of the AU Commission, issued the first two copies of the passport to Chairperson of the AU and President of Chad, Idris Deby Itno, and to President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. Presently, the passport is only issued to African heads of state, foreign ministers and diplomats accredited by the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 2018 it will become the responsibility of African governments to roll out the passport to the citizens of their countries.
The study concludes by making five key recommendations to African airline carriers that want to take advantage of the introduction of the pan-African passport and increase their “wallet share.” The first two relate to the airline companies themselves and these are to “make travel easy and accessible” by breaking down or removing barriers to travel, to “future-proof your airline” by investing in modern technologies and by identifying new routes and markets. The next two are customer focused. Travelers should be encouraged to choose your airline as a result of the technology and levels of comfort and service that you can offer. When booking flights, travellers should also have access to “a multi-channel sales strategy across both new and traditional channels.” Finally, airlines are encouraged to “operate like a retailer” so that they can better understand their customers thereby being able to offer “each person the right product in the right context at the right time.”