Cape Town - In a hyper-connected world air travel connectivity remains vital - with ways and means to make it easier and less admin-intensive high on the itinerary of all travellers.
Issues around the high cost of air travel, visa approval difficulties and poor route connectivity have come to light in a recent Sabre survey - which unless otherwise addressed - it could hamper considerable growth opportunity for African airlines.
Significant findings of the new research released by the global travel technology provider indicates that African air travel spend is expected to rise 24% with the introduction of the pan-African passport in 2018 - Click here to see the full report.
The new passport will enable African travellers to visit other countries on the continent without a visa.
SEE: Are the barriers to the pan-African passport insurmountable?
A key obstacle to the much-anticipated passport is the access to biometric systems, needed to register the passports. Currently only 13 of the 54 AU members offer biometric passports. Algeria, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana and Tunisia, for example, do not have them. South Africa is currently on a mission to roll new biometric capturing system out with trials being piloted across SA's major international airports.
SEE:WATCH: A step-by-step look at how exactly Biometric Data Capturing works
Added to this, the survey which involved some 7 000 travellers from four countries – South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt - targeted those who had flown in the past 24 months. Out of the 1 700 respondents who had travelled in the last 24 months, South Africans featured the lowest with 13%, while Nigerians appeared to have travelled more frequently at 35%.
The results indicated these passengers would spend 24 percent more with the introduction of the passport - from $1 100 (about R15 510 at R14.10/$) to $1 500 annually.
'Travel in Africa still remains inaccessible to the majority'
But despite a willingness among travellers to spend more on flights, travel in Africa still remains inaccessible to the majority, with only 23 percent of those surveyed having travelled abroad at all in the last two years. When asked what prevents them from travelling more, the top reasons were:
• 32% said travel is too expensive
• 31% said it is difficult obtaining VISAs
• 30% said it is too difficult to book travel
• 28% said there are no flights to their chosen destination
Travellers also expressed a number of gripes about their current experiences when travelling:
• 27% said the check-in process takes too long
• 22% said the check-in procedure is confusing
• 20% don’t like the food on aircrafts
• 19% think there is not enough to do at the airport
“The results suggest that while travel is inaccessible to many and is difficult for those that do travel, there is a still a strong desire to travel more,” said Dino Gelmetti, vice president, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Airline Solutions, Sabre.
'African carriers currently face tough competition from international rivals'
“Additionally, most of the pain points can be addressed by airlines, and these tweaks could make all the difference to travellers. African carriers currently face tough competition from international rivals that control 88 percent of African airspace but, as demand for travel increases, African airlines have a real opportunity to win the lion’s share of bookings by addressing the pain points of travellers and going the extra mile to improve their experience.”
'Willing to spend for extra comfort and services'
Like many other travellers globally, Africans also expressed a strong interest in experiencing a travel journey that was more personalised and tailored towards them. Respondents said that they would be willing to spend up to $104 per trip on an airline’s extra products and services – such as excess baggage, cabin class upgrades, and special food and beverage – if it improved and personalised their journey.
“Airlines globally currently pocket an average of just $16 per passenger on ancillaries, so the fact that African travellers are prepared to spend six times more than that represents a significant retail opportunity for carriers on the continent,” said Gelmetti.
'Airlines need to invest in offering customers the right products'
“Airlines will flourish if they invest in technology that can make sense of customer data and use it to offer passengers the right product in the right context at the right time. This technology, which empowers airlines to mirror the personalised shopping tactics already mastered by the online retail industry has been proven to increase ancillary revenue by an average of 10 percent, and is being used by some of the world’s most forward-thinking carriers.”
As further encouragement for African carriers, Sabre’s survey respondents stated a number of reasons why people would choose to fly with their local carrier over a foreign airline; the top three reasons were:
• It offered cheaper tickets
• It offered the latest technology on board
• It offered greater comfort on board
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