Passenger traffic through the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) continued to increase in the first quarter of 2021, in a further sign of the aviation sector’s gradual recovery from the pandemic-induced crisis that brought it to its knees in 2020.
According to data from the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL), the state-owned airports infrastructure manager, 208,815 international travellers arrived at or departed from KIA in January to March this year, an increase of 6 percent from the traffic recorded in October to December 2020.
Travelling through the nation’s main airport virtually ceased from April to August last year, when the airport was closed to international traffic to help limit the importation of the Covid-19 virus into the country.
The closure—and the broader global and local ramifications of the pandemic—caused international passenger traffic through the airport to collapse from 2.1m in 2019 to 702,651 in 2020, a two-thirds reduction equivalent to 1.4m fewer passengers.
The situation also forced a virtual shutdown of the tourism and hospitality sector, contributing to a sharp fall in Ghana’s economic growth to 0.4 percent last year from an average of 7 percent in 2017–19.
Since the airport’s re-opening in September 2020, passenger traffic has picked up but is yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, as demand for travel and international tourism activities remain restricted.
The GACL data show that despite the uptick, the number of international passengers that flew through KIA in the first quarter of the year was just 48 percent of the figure—433,332—in the same period last year, before the pandemic took hold in the country.
Domestic air travel, on the other hand, has already hit pre-pandemic levels, with 156,176 passengers flying internally in January to March this year compared to 152,248 in the corresponding period of 2020.
In all, passenger traffic for both domestic and foreign travels stood at 364,991 in the first quarter, 0.8 percent above the 361,988 recorded in the fourth quarter of 2020 but 38 percent less than the total traffic of 585,580 in the first quarter of 2020.
The improvement in air traffic, which mirrors a global trend as vaccinations against Covid-19 allow countries to ease movement restrictions and more people to travel again, will be pleasant news for the tourism and hospitality sector, which is slowly resuming business after bearing the brunt of the economic disruption caused by the pandemic.