Citizens of countries across Africa could have a new document available to them starting in 2018. It’s called the Pan-African Passport and it could change the way the continent travels. The idea behind the document is to make it easier to cross borders within Africa, opening doors to both leisure and business travelers to travel more freely. The shared documentation not only eliminates the need for visas but also provides a level of shared security for participating countries.

This is not about free borders but a more broad understanding of what it means to be a citizen of a place. Especially in the current global climate, the idea of a United States of Africa has captured the media’s attention.

Surveying the African traveler

Late last year, we took the topic of the pan-African passport and surveyed 1,600 residents of the African continent who had traveled in the past 24 months. The sample represented countries from across Africa. This region has quite the room for growth, as only about one in four Africans has travelled by air in the past 24 months. And certain countries are more primed for growth in air travel than others, per the figure below.

Taking to the air for more comfort and convenience

The hassles of above-ground transportation across the continent are many. The distances are long, the vehicles unreliable and the schedules unpredictable. This can challenge those working to build businesses between countries, as well as hamper the growth of a strong leisure travel market.

When it comes to air travel, there are many reasons that respondents gave for not traveling more often. The major ones were flights were too expensive and travel unsafe. Some of the reasons also pointed to opportunities for airlines operating in the region: flights were too difficult to book, there were not enough routes, and existing routes were too complicated.

There was also a lack of reliability, as far as the prices quoted, the websites used, and the overall experience when searching and booking flights. While there are opportunities to improve how travelers interact with airlines, there is the imperative to be a mobile-first brand. The majority of internet usage is on mobile, so the experience must not frustrate or impede would-be travelers.

 

Country-by-country differences also revealed different preferences. Passengers in Nigeria, for example, prioritized comfort more than price. Those same travelers were also keen on the latest technology, superior customer service and personalized products. Understanding these regional differences can help any travel provider craft the proper product mix and marketing messages across different routes.

Travel is a regional revenue engine

Much of the current worldwide narrative relates to immigration, with some advocating for a turn away from centralized cross-border documentation. If this shift solidifies, then the possibility of a pan-African passport would likely fade away. Yet the benefits of such a document have shown an estimated 24 percent increase in travel spending thanks to a shared process for identification.

Like all things, a balance must be achieved to deliver equal measures of personal and financial security. The travel engine is a significant driver of growth for economies the world over.

Some of this revenue growth could come from ancillaries. These profit-making add-ons were leveraged less than travelers were willing to spend. Rather than leave that revenue on the table, airlines serving the African market must consider improving how to sell and up-sell ancillaries across the traveler journey.

A healthy travel industry certainly requires profitable operation — these statistics emphasize just how much remains in the traveler’s expected budget.

Click here to read the full report.