Having been selected as Co-Sponsor of the upcoming World Travel Awards Africa & Indian Ocean Gala Ceremony 2016, Breaking Travel News editor Chris O’Toole here talks with Richard Omoro, area manager for Kenya Airways, about the upcoming event and the part it is expected to play in the revitalisation of the airline.
Breaking Travel News: Kenya Airways has been revealed as ‘Co-Sponsor’ of the World Travel Awards Africa & Indian Ocean Gala Ceremony 2016. Can you tell us a little about this deal and what advantages it will bring to the carrier?
Richard Omoro: In 2015 there has been significant press around the loss position of the airline.
For the most part the press stories have been less than flattering for KQ.
In the same year, despite our financial position KQ still carried an average of 10,000 guests daily, operated arguably the youngest fleet in Africa from Terminal 1A and this terminal has been recognised as a leading terminal in Africa.
The message of the improved value we have provided to travellers in the region has been drowned significantly and we feel that the World Travel Awards Africa & Indian Ocean Gala ceremony offers a platform where we can reaffirm to our market, our travellers and influential travel partners that we are still unwavering in our commitment to offer value to travellers in the region that we operate.
Hopefully this can be endorsed by our travellers if we win an award!
BTN: Kenya Airways itself was recognised as Africa’s Leading Airline - Business Class in 2015 by World Travel Awards. How did it feel to take this title?
RO: Our Business Class product is unrivalled in the continent.
This has been confirmed by our travellers as we have been voted as the best African airline – Business class product for the last three consecutive years.
Kenya Airways has spent a lot of time and effort to build and enhance the experience.
We have newer and better aircraft, menus and drinks portfolio and lounge facilities at our hub in JKIA.
Our customers have given great feedback on areas of improvements and we take that very seriously.
This product is always improving and when we are picked by our customers as the best we are very proud.
BTN: Green shoots of recovery can be seen in the Kenya tourism sector after a troubling period of the past two or three years. Does this benefit Kenya Airways?
RO: In Kenya, tourism contributes over $1Billion and employs thousands of people.
In 2014, tourism’s contribution to Kenya’s economy was worth 4.1 per cent of the country’s total GDP, second only to agriculture, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
Kenya boasts world class beach and safari destinations, but security concerns over the past few years have reduced the number of visitors.
In this regard, recovery of tourism in Kenya and the region in the past six months is very good news for Kenya Airways.
As the leading African carrier bringing tourism traffic to Africa from Europe, Asia and America, we have been concerned at the slow pace of recovery due to the constant threat of terrorism.
High level visits into the country by global world leaders such as US president Barrack Obama and the Pope have been instrumental in changing perceptions of the region as a premier destination for tourism.
This will see a boost in tourism traffic that Kenya Airways is fully poised to take advantage of.
BTN: The carrier itself is presently undergoing a turnaround, having appointed PJT Partners as a transaction advisor on its balance sheet restructure and long-term capital refinancing. What are the ambitions here?
RO: Kenya Airways is currently undergoing a transformation to bring it back to profitability.
There is a strategy in place focusing on three key areas: closing of the profitability gap, revisiting our business model and reaffirming our competitive edge, and finding a sustainable financial structure for the business.
To achieve this, we are working in partnership with several institutions.
These include financial institutions such as PJP Partners whose role is to assist Kenya Airways find a sustainable financial structure to enable the airline survive into the future.
BTN: Can you tell us a little about the plans the carrier has for 2016 – do you have any new routes coming into the market? What other improvements can we look forward to?
RO: KQ seeks to consolidate our position in the routes that we fly.
Our focus continues to grow our frequencies and better connectivity within our African routes.
Firstly in the domestic market KQ will continue to offer unrivalled options with the eight daily frequencies to Mombasa and four daily frequencies to Kisumu.
In Africa, we have improved the connection and frequencies from most African cities.
For example we fly five times daily to Entebbe and five times daily to Dar el Salem.
We will start flying four times daily to Johannesburg, add three night flights to Lagos and a number of additional frequencies to Accra in our summer schedule.
Towards Europe we operate together with our partner KLM four flights daily to the major European capitals of London, Amsterdam and Paris.
Kenya Airways is the flag carrier of Kenya.
The company was founded in 1977 and today had a head office is located in Embakasi, Nairobi, with its hub at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
To find out more head over to the official website.