By Mathias Ringa
The tourism industry in Kenya faces a glimmer of hope with increased international flight bookings for the summer season up by 27.7 per cent compared to last year, according to the latest data from ForwardKeys.
ForwardKeys, a global organization that monitors future travel patterns by analysing 14 million daily reservation transactions, indicates that bookings made for the beginning of May onwards show that nearly all the top African destinations are seeing a soar in international arrivals.
Namibia tops the list, up 31.2 per cent on the previous year, with Kenya in second place, up 27.7 per cent followed by South Africa with an increase of 21.6 per cent.
In a press statement, ForwardKeys Chief Executive Officer Olivier Jager said: “It’s clear that recent events have impacted travel to North African countries, especially Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia which are all showing a marked decline in tourist numbers.
“However, the picture in Sub-Saharan Africa has changed, with most countries showing very positive increases, such as Namibia, Kenya and South Africa.”
On Saturday, Kenya Tourism Board acting managing director, Jacinta Nzioka, confirmed that international flight bookings for the country had increased by more than 20 per cent.
She said bookings for summer July to October were on the rise due to improved security in the country and especially at the Coast.
Ms Nzioka explained that leading tour operators and travel agents from the traditional markets of Germany, UK, Italy, Switzerland and France were now selling Kenya in the wake of peace enjoyed in the country.
She also attributed the surge to the government’s reduction of park entry fees from Sh9,000 per international visitor to Sh6,000 and the waiving of visa fees for children below 16 years.
On the other hand, Ms Nzioka said the Sh1.2 billion charter incentive programme which was announced by the government last year had attracted some chartered airlines from Europe.
SOMETHING TO SMILE ABOUT
She noted that some charter airlines from Europe are expected to resume flights to Mombasa during the summer season thereby contributing to the rise.
Ms Nzioka said Tourism minister Najib Balala and the KTB team had been aggressively marketing the country in both traditional and emerging markets to help revive the sector.
She said the marketing campaigns were done in Germany, UK, Italy, France – among other source markets – to win back the confidence of leading sector players.
In an interview with the Nation on the sidelines of South African Travel Show, Indaba 2016 that began on Saturday in Durban, Ms Nzioka said KTB was also focusing on attracting tourists from Africa.
“We are participating in Indaba, which is the largest travel trade fair in Africa, so that we can woo more African holidaymakers to our country,” she said.
“We expect tourist arrivals from South Africa to increase by 20 per cent this year compared to 30,000 tourists last year.”
Karen Blixen Camp managing director Ronald Mutie, added that international tourist bookings for the summer season had jumped by over 20 per cent compared to last year.
He said the Camp had registered impressive bookings for the summer, mainly from Scandinavian countries: Denmark and Norway.
“We have also bookings from the US, UK and Australian markets, with the visitors coming to the country for safari,” he said.
Since March, several chartered airlines from Europe have entered deals with the government to resume flights to Mombasa during the Summer period and in return they will benefit from the charter incentives.