Despite the current pessimism surrounding the future of Kenya Airways, the International Air Transport Association forecasts more than double growth for the country’s air transport sector in the next 20 years.
According to IATA, the sector will grow by 249 per cent over the period if the current trends are maintained, contributing $11.3 billion annually to Kenya’s GDP and supporting an estimated 859,000 jobs by 2037.
The findings were made in the Value of Aviation Report for Kenya that was launched during IATA’s Regional Aviation Forum hosted by Kenya Airways on September 17.
The report looked at the total contribution of jobs and spending generated by airlines and their supply chain; trade and tourism flows; investments by users of all airlines serving a particular country as well as the city pair connections that make these flows possible.
According to IATA, the air transport sector contributed $3.2 billion to the economy, amounting to 4.6 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2017.
Kenya received 4.8 million foreign passengers in 2017, which supported 410,000 jobs. About $0.9 billion was spent directly by passengers, which supported 15,000 jobs. Another $0.6 billion was spent on the industry’s supply chain, supporting 96,000 jobs. Tourists who arrived by air spent $1.6 billion, supporting 257,000 jobs in the hospitality sector.
According to the report, Africa remains the biggest source of air passengers to Kenya, contributing 3.1 million passengers or 70 per cent of total visitors in 2017. Europe came next with 585,000 passengers followed by Asia-Pacific 284,000, the Middle East, 233,000 and the United States 210,000.
Dar es Salaam is the busiest air route between Kenya and any city pair followed by Entebbe, Dubai, Addis and South Africa. The Netherlands is the busiest cargo market for Kenya followed by the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.
Measured by number of seats deployed to a particular region, the Middle East experienced the fastest growth in connectivity with Kenya over the past five years, increasing by 49 per cent, followed by African countries at 23 per cent. In contrast, capacity to Asia-Pacific and Europe shrunk by 15 per cent and two per cent respectively over the same period.
The shifts could be a reflection of changes in equipment used and number of frequencies. For example, the Middle-East experienced frequency growth while Asia-Pacific was hit by Kenya Airways reorganisation which in 2017, saw the larger B777-300 withdrawn from service on routes to China and Europe in favour for the smaller B787 Dreamliner.
“A key economic flow that is stimulated by good air transport connections is foreign direct investment, creating productive assets that will generate a long-term flow of GDP,” IATA says.
At the end of 2017, Kenya was connected to 67 destinations served by 32 airlines.
Passenger and trade flows to Kenya have been partly helped by good scores on ease of travel and trade facilitation. At 3.1 out of ten, Kenya’s score on passenger facilitation was marginally above the African average of 3.0. The country ranked 12th globally on visa openness and 93rd out of 136 countries surveyed for cost competitiveness.
Nairobi also scored seven out of ten on visa openness, 6.3 out of 10 for cost competitiveness and 6.7 out of 10 for air trade facilitation.