Africa’s top five most travelled to cities

Africa’s top destination for international travellers is South Africa’s Johannesburg, with an estimated 4.25m visitors for 2014, according to this year’s MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index released this week.

The Index, now in its fourth year, provides a ranking of 132 most travelled to destinations from around the world. The cities are ranked according to the number of international passengers (not residents of the country), that disembark and leave the airport.

In Africa, Johannesburg is followed by Cape Town (South Africa), Cairo (Egypt), Lagos (Nigeria) and Casablanca (Morocco).

Africa's top 5 destination cities by international overnight visitors (2014)
RankCityCountryEstimated visitors (millions)2014 estimated visitor spend
20132014Change from 2013-2014 (%)
1JohannesburgSouth Africa4.14.254.90%US$3.2bn
2Cape TownSouth Africa1.51.65.50%US$2.3bn

Cairo is the only city in Africa’s top five to experience negative growth in both international visitors and their estimated spending. Cairo slipped to 1.35m visitors, from 1.5m in 2013 and 2.2m in 2010. Estimated visitor spending for 2014 decreased by 7.6% from the previous year. MasterCard owes this to political unrest in Egypt.

Lagos’s 1.33m estimated visitors for 2014 is a 5.8% increase from 2013, but still lower than its 2010 spike of 1.5m.

Key feeder cities

The report also identifies key feeder cities for top destinations, which refers to cities where the international visitors are coming from or via which they transit to reach the destination city.

“If a destination city is connected with a network of fast growing feeder cities where outbound travel is taking off, then it is well positioned to benefit from such growth. On the other hand, if certain feeder cities are slowing down in economic growth with household income stagnating, then the associated destination cities will likely suffer unless they are able to tap into other growing feeder cities,” notes MasterCard’s report.

“Mapping a destination city’s key feeder cities therefore generates valuable insights on a destination city’s growth potential as well as challenges ahead.”

Johannesburg’s top five feeder cities are London, Frankfurt, Harare, Maputo, and Paris respectively. While visitor numbers from London and Frankfurt are growing, the others are dropping.

A large portion of international visitors to Johannesburg come from with southern Africa, with the top five neighbouring feeder countries being Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana and Swaziland respectively.