MIXED PICTURE EMERGES AS UPWARDS TREND CONTINUES
(Posted 01st September 2016)
Figures finally made public affirm the upwards trend for Kenya’s Tourism industry. During the first six months of this year did arrival numbers rise from last year’s dismal 347.458 to 395.298, an increase by nearly 14 percent. At the same time did tourism revenues grow from 39.6 billion Kenya Shillings to nearly 47 billion Kenya Shillings.
This trend was largely carried by the added arrivals in Nairobi, where several high profile conferences boosted arrival numbers, with last week’s TICAD VI alone bringing some 10.000 visitors into the country.
Fortunes however are mixed for the Kenya coast, which during the long holiday weekends and the school holidays benefits from rising numbers of locals taking a break at one of the many beach resorts along the beaches from Malindi to Diani.
International arrivals though remain on shaky grounds as key charters from the UK have not resumed operations while only three foreign scheduled airlines, among them RwandAir and Turkish Airlines, presently fly to Kenya’s second city.
Attempts to have other airlines like Qatar Airways commence flights to Mombasa have been thwarted in the past by inflexible regulators and government officials, who refused to grant the airline fifth freedom rights which are needed to make the operation a financial success.
While FlyDubai was more recently granted traffic rights – this Dubai based Low Cost Carrier already flies to Mombasa’s main competitor Zanzibar – have operations not started and no date was available as of today when this could take place.
In stark contrast does Mauritius receive two daily flights from Emirates operated by Airbus A380 aircraft while the Seychelles welcome two daily Emirates flights operated by Boeing B777 aircraft and Qatar Airways operates flights to Zanzibar too besides their double daily service to Dar es Salaam.
‘Our main challenges right now are incomplete infrastructure in Mombasa and the eternal traffic jams to get in and out of the city. Safaris are regularly delayed because of the trucks jamming the road out of Mombasa to Nairobi. The Likoni ferry is another such bottleneck. Then are airfares quite high from Nairobi to Mombasa and some of the other coast destinations and our LCC’s are not really low cost at all. Our resorts, most of them anyway, are tired and need major refurbishments but given the past few years of bad business, where is the money supposed to come from. Only yesterday did auctioneers raid a hotel in Diani for non payment of salaries. Resort occupancies need to rise again to over 60 percent in average per year, better even 70 percent, to begin making up for the losses they made since 2012/13. Utility cost are high and there is no reprieve from the tax man either. Some of the incentive measures announced earlier this year have not yet yielded the wanted results, that is a bit slow in coming. Many challenges remain in fact and with elections coming next year, the industry is very wary of the impact that will have. We remember the last elections and the ones before and tour operators will make contingency plans outside Kenya going by those experiences they have. This means all efforts must be redoubled now to preempt tourists diverting next year from Kenya to other places when the country goes to the polls‘ commented a regular source from the Kenya coast, needless to say on condition of anonymity.
Mixed fortunes indeed and fingers crossed that the many assurances given to the Kenyan tourism industry during the State House Mombasa Tourism Summit yesterday will be fulfilled on the fast track and not get stuck in red tape as often was the case in the past.
Find more details about Destination Kenya via www.magicalkenya.com or about the country’s national parks, marine parks and game reserves via www.kws.or.ke