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.
At least thirty six airlines are gunning for a slice of Nairobi’s airport traffic, in a move that could support Kenya’s floundering tourism and ratchet up price competition.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority says 36 passenger and cargo airlines are seeking licences to operate local and international cargo and passenger flights, a move seen lifting Nairobi’s transport hub status ambitions.
Zimbabwe-based Global Africa Aviation (Put) Limited have sought licence to conduct cargo flights from Harare to Nairobi while West Wind Aviation Limited seeks approval to offer passengers and freight between Nairobi, East, West, Central and Southern Africa from its current base at Wilson Airport.
Italy’s Neos S.P.A and Meridiana Fly have sought approval to operate chartered flights on a bi-weekly basis from Malpensa, Italy to Mombasa and a weekly flight from Katowice-Hurghada to Mombasa respectively.
Other new entrants include Poland’s Small Planet Airlines that plans weekly flights to Kenya while Saudi Arabian Airlines Corporation has sought licence to conduct cargo services from Nairobi to Jeddah and back.
On the East African front Auric Air Services Limited, Tanzanian Air Services and Air Excel Limited, all from Tanzania have sought to offer regional passenger services, thanks to the recently signed air traffic protocol that gives regional operators from East African Community automatic rights to use sister facilities at no extra cost.
Five Forty Aviation and Baracuda Airways Holdings Limited plan to launch weekly flights to Homa Bay while East African Safari Air Express Limited wants to be allowed to fly to Kabamet weekly.
DAC Aviation (E.A.) Limited wants to enjoy non-scheduled air services for passengers, cargo and mail within Kenya and to other points in Africa, Middle East and Asia.
Ocean Airlines Limited seeks to entrench its leadership in the Nairobi-Northern Kenya route and is seeking permission to fly people and cargo to from Nairobi to Kisumu, Garissa and Wajir.
Jetways Airlines Limited also wants to fly to South Sudan’s Juba capital via Entebbe, Mogadishu which will be integrated with its domestic route plying Eldoret, Lodwar, Kakuma, Mombasa, Malindi, La mu, Waji, and Mandera.
Treedo n Airlines Express Limited had also applied for inclusion of new routes to include Eastern and Central Africa while its domestic routes will be ferrying of passengers from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport to Ukunda, Wajir, and Eldoret.
Others are Kenya Homes Company Limited, Timbis Air Services, Aberdair Aviation Limited, Skymax Aviation Limited, Northwood Agencies Limited, Nairobi Mission Aviation Fellowship (K), GeoAir Limited, Transafrican Air Limited, Skyward Express Limited and Aeronav Limited.
Private and public South African entities doing business in renewable energy, finance and management consulting stepped up business travel in 2015, while other sectors saw a marked decline in business travel, according to a report in BizNisAfrica.
Changes in 2015 business travel reflected changes in the economy, according to Raylene Pienaar, a general manager at business travel agency Corporate Traveller, based in Randburg near Johannesburg.
Some industrial and commercial sectors including those involved in mining and construction sent their executives on fewer business trips, while others significantly increased travel, Pienaar told BizNisAfrica.
“There has been strong business travel growth this year in the energy sector, and especially in companies and entities whose business is in sustainable and so-called ‘green’ energy,” Pienaar said. “Renewable energy businesses, especially, are showing great growth, booking more flights both locally and abroad than ever before.”
Financial institutions and management consulting companies also showed growth in business travel, especially in Africa. This could mean that these skills in South Africa are in demand on a continent that’s been identified as a global economic growth region, Pienaar told BizNisAfrica.
However, there was a significant decline in business travel across some sectors of the economy, Pienaar said, indicating that these industries may bear the brunt of weakened economic conditions.
Those sectors include mining and industries that support mining — construction, engineering, and environmental consulting.
Construction companies are under pressure globally — not just in Africa — and business travel decreased markedly in 2015, Pienaar said.
There was a decline in property management travel in 2015, Pienaar said. Consultants stay at company headquarters and managed properties remotely.
Digital technology allows people to work off site and offers an alternative to booking an airline ticket and paying a personal visit to a client or partner.
“Some of our clients tell us they need to spend cautiously, and are cutting back until macro and industry-specific conditions improve,” Pienaar told BizNisAfrica.
In industries that are doing well, business travelers want to meet with associates in person, Pienaar said. “They see the value in investing in travel for business: to close the deal, offer a personal handshake and develop those critical personal relationships.”
From May this year, there will be no more direct flights to China by South African Airways, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said on Friday.
This is part of a strategy to turn around the finances of SAA and part of the cost-saving measures that include cancelling loss making routes with China being one of them.
“Indeed we have approved the cancelation of the China route as government because we have a certain obligation. Part of the implementation of the strategy was the closure of loss making routes,” said the Minister.
He was responding to a question at a South African Airways (SAA) media briefing on its 2013/14 financial results. This after the airline held its Annual General Meeting (AGM).
Acting SAA chief executive officer Nico Bezuidenhout revealed that close to R1 billion has been lost on the Beijing route in a three year period since SAA introduced the route in 2012.
Bezuidenhout said SAA will stop operating flights to China in April.
Air China will take over the route in May with SAA placing a code on flights to China.
This comes as the National Treasury announced this week that the airline is to receive R6.488 billion guarantee.
The guarantees to SAA amount to R14.4 billion against which SAA has thus far utilised R8.345 billion.
“We had to put SAA on a business rescue but with the Long Term Turnaround Strategy (LTTS) on the table together with the 90 Day action plan we had to be convinced that we would now be able to see an improvement in SAA’s financial situation,” Minister Nene said.
He explained that some of the drastic steps that had to be taken included the route closures, adding that was what other airlines were doing to save costs.
The move comes as part of the airline’s 90 Day Action Plan which was launched in December.
Bezuidenhout described the strategy as a living document.
“We had to continuously amend, adjust not radically change,” he said.
Treasury is also working with the national carrier in revising and refining the existing LTTS which will have the primary mandate of returning the airline to financial sustainability.
Minister Nene said that the focus will be on the 90 Day action plan which is based on the LTTS but with an emphasis on executing quick wins including route closures.
He emphasised that it will take time for the benefits to show on SAA’s bottom line adding that the guarantee was issued on the basis that the 90 Day Action Plan is robust and provides firm deliverables.
“The work for SAA will not be over and there will still be other tough measures that they will have to take in order to get the airline back on track,” said the Minister.
The airline had to be self-sustaining as no recapitalisation will be forthcoming from the shareholder, Minister Nene said. The National Treasury recently took over SAA after the airline was transferred from the Public Enterprises Department.
The financial results on Friday showed that operating loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization narrowed to R374 million for the year from R425 million reported 12 months earlier.
Cost containment during the 2013/14 financial year yielded savings of R453 million. The SAA group achieved growth in revenues by 12% (from R27.1 billion to R30.3 billion).
Source: All Africa
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