Air, hotels and visas ease up

Africa has long had a bad rap as a travel location, the critics citing poor air connections, expense, and prohibitive entry regulations. But there are positive signs that all these factors are easing up.

Regional md, Africa for Travelport, Guido Verweij, who is well travelled on the continent, is one of the upbeat ones. “As a Dutch national, I needed a visa to almost every country I visited, but almost all countries now have an eVisa where one can simply apply and pay online beforehand. The process is very clear and transparent.”

ABTA founder, Monique Swart agrees that visa processes have certainly improved for certain countries, but often these relaxations are for tourist and not business visas. “As much as business travellers might be tempted to enter a country on a tourist visa, this is not recommended as many countries are clamping down,” she points out.

On the subject of air travel, Verweij notes that the first phase of the recently instituted Single African Air Transport Market will make inner intra-country travel much easier and an entrepreneurial spirit bodes well for new routes and frequencies in the sometimes precarious African aviation industry.  

“It has seen many issues in terms of the number of airlines that have ceased operations, but 283 African airlines currently operate, and 52 airlines are preparing to start up,” he says. “The substantial number of failed airlines in a relatively small market can create challenges, but the constant supply of start-ups presents many opportunities as we engage with the local markets and sign up airlines to our merchandising solutions as soon as we can.” He also notes significant growth in the LCC sphere.

Club Travel Corporate director: Travel Operations, Sharon Nash feels that while there is still much room for improvement, there are more flight options, and instances of having to fly to Europe to locate a connection to West Africa, for example, happens less often.

Robyn Christie, board member of the GBTA says unexplained delays and technical issues really rile travellers in Africa. Ground staff are not always equipped with information and some airports can be a little chaotic but “for the most part one can get around with a degree of ease”. “Travellers and their bookers should make informed choices. A further night in a hotel may be more palatable than trying to take the last flight out of a destination and then hearing its ‘gone technical’.” 

Ground travel, says Swart, remains a challenge, with many travellers not being comfortable driving on local roads. Hotel-operated and secure transfers are the way around this, she advises.  

The hospitality sector is improving, however, with widening choice, even in emerging markets, notes Swart. “The price for hotel accommodation is still relatively high though, in relation to South African pricing, which has led to a fair amount of companies utilising corporate housing or B&B options.”

Christie, too, has seen an increasing number of hotels popping up in all the cities, but not so in more rural regions. There are few platforms offering a directory of up-to-date and relevant hospitality content, she says. 

“When sending travellers into Africa, corporate travel managers have to adopt a far more strategic approach in comparison to other markets. Understanding the destination, traffic delays and local cultures is vital to ensure that travellers have productive trips with as little down time as possible,” concludes Swart.

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