Kenya’s tourism industry, which plummeted following political turmoil in 2007, has recovered to almost pre-2007 election levels. The number of tourism arrivals have risen 90 percent from last year, according to tourism minister Najib Balala, and is expected levels to return to 2007 levels by March.
Speaking at the ninth Lamu Cultural Festival, he added that the influx will be buoyed by a large number of visitors during the European winter season as visitors arrive to enjoy the warm weather over the holiday season.
The number of charter flights to Mombasa is expected to soar to 30 a week compared to the current 20. New airlines in Belgium, Holland and France, as well as Ethiopian Airlines, are adding flights to Mombasa.
Mr Balala told Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation: “I am happy that our marketing campaigns in Europe and other continents have started to bear fruit. The sector has recovered by 90 per cent, and we expect fully recovery by March next year. We have seen new airlines from Europe launching direct flights to Mombasa, and this has boosted the tourist numbers. Next month we expect most of the hotels at the Coast to be packed with guests.”
However the air passenger duty (APD) hikes for departures from United Kingdom airports to long haul destinations is causing concern within Kenya’s tourism industry, and the impact this could have on number from the UK, Kenya’s key source market. The new rates mean an increase of between £90 and £100.
Mr Mohamed Hersi, President of Skal International Kenya Chapter, said the new move will make it easier for international tourists to choose destinations closer to their homes to cut down on costs.
“Kenya is already struggling to fight destinations such as Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, which are closer to Europe and we feel the new rates will affect us adversely,” he said.
“English tourists have been very loyal to Kenya even in bad times like during the post-election violence, but this new arrangement will make them think twice and they may choose other destinations because of the costs in the wake of the global economic recession.”
He called on the minister Najib Balala to take up the matter with the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) to have the figures reviewed.
“I have already written our concerns through the ministry of Foreign Affairs because such taxes will discourage people from travelling, which means our roadmap to recovery is at stake,” the minister said confirming the new rates and describing them as unfair.
The Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers said the decision has come barely a few months after Kenya waived its visa fees to attract more tourists.