International passengers make up 80% of airport passengers in Zambia as air traffic expands 12%

Newly built Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula international airport in Livingstone.

Zambia Airports Corporation Limited – ZACL has recorded a positive growth for the third quarter (July to September) of 2018 with passenger numbers increasing by 12% when compared to the same period last year. The country recorded a total 553,045 general passenger movements from July to September – Q3 2018.

ZACL has continued to record more international passengers when compared to domestic passengers. International passengers made up about 80% of all the third quarter (Q3) passengers. Zambia saw International passenger segment growth of about 9% from 400,950 passengers in the third quarter of 2017 to 437,250 passengers in the third quarter of 2018. In terms of local passengers, the country recorded 115,795 domestic passengers, an increase of bout 22% from the Q3 2017 traffic of 94,735

ZACL whose mandate is to develop, maintain and manage the four designated international airports, namely Kenneth Kaunda in Lusaka, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe in Ndola, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula in Livingstone and Mfuwe and three Strategic and seven provincial aerodromes and the provision of Air Navigation services within the Zambian has continued to record positive strides

There has been massive investments in Zambia’s Airport infrastructure with Harry Mwaanga Nkubula in Livingstone already completed while both the Kenneth Kaunda and Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe – Copperbelt International airports are currently undergoing multi million dollars upgrades ad relocations.

The growth in air traffic recorded in Q3 has been attributed to continued domestic uplifts to Livingstone, Lusaka and Ndola by August 2017 new entrant, Mahogany Air and well established Proflight Zambia giving a positive domestic variance Additionally, the introduction of flights between Lusaka, Lilongwe and Harare by Proflight Zambia and Malawian Airlines.

ZACL also sighted the increased competition between Mahogany Air and Proflight Zambia has resulted in a reduction in ticket fares which has resulted in the attraction of new air travellers on the domestic front. Further more, the introduction of RwandAir flights on the Lusaka – Johannesburg route helped to stimulate traffic to Johannesburg.

Challenges faced in Q3

The third quarter had its fair share of challenges which are a spill over from the erstwhile tourist resort settings. ZACL stated that the continued limited bed capacity in Livingstone and Mfuwe continues to affect traffic to these tourist hotspots in Zambia, particularly with international tourists. Limited competition for quality hotel accommodation has kept room rates relatively high, missing out on the cost sensitive travellers. 

The third quarter also saw challenges emerging from the operation of a low cost carrier namely Fastjet Zimbabwe into Victoria Falls Town, in Zimbabwe considered a direct rival to Zambia’s number 1 tourists city of Livingstone. The low cost carrier was seen to have stimulated South African traffic into Victoria Falls International Airport on the Zimbabwean side due to a combination of cheap air fares and accommodation. South Africa remains the biggest market for Victoria Falls catchment area.

Zambia should operationalize Visa on arrival to fend off competition

As competition heats up for international tourists, Zambia’s immigration policies continue to affect inbound travel as countries surrounding Zambia have increasingly relaxed border rules by allowing most tourists to obtain visa upon arrival. Countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Rwanda are among the new movers. Zambia had launched the online Visa application process and ZBT is still to obtain statistics on weather the process is smooth and the technology used is working as planned. This is another tool that was launched to attract more tourists to Zambia.