Tourism in the Coast received a major boost yesterday after one of the major tour operators in the world TUI resumed charter flights to Mombasa.
Yesterday TUI flew in 120 tourists from the Netherlands who will spend their time in Kenya for the next two weeks in various hotels. The company will from now on be flying into Mombasa twice a week, bringing with it about 360 visitors to the coast every week.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala who has been lobbying TUI to promote Kenya as the favourite tourist destination for years now was at hand at the Moi International Airport to receive the flights and its occupants.
He said 15 charter flights fly tourists into Mombasa weekly.
TUI is a German travel and tourism company and it is the largest leisure, travel and tourism company in the world. It owns airlines, travel agencies, hotels, cruise ships and retail stores.
The group owns six European airlines – the largest holiday fleet in Europe – and nine tour operators based in Europe.
Its arrival comes barely days after the launch of TUI Belgium charter flights and Poland’s LOT which landed with 315 and 250 visitors respectively.
A lot will be landing twice weekly with an average of 500 visitors. Last year, 11,947 visitors came from Poland up from 9,572 recorded in 2016. This was a 24.8 per cent growth.
Balala said Kenya was grateful to all those who have facilitated the tourists from the rest of the world adding that their arrival will go along way in improving the quality of life for many people in the region.
“The Netherlands is the fourth largest source market from Europe with 22,108 visitors last year, denoting a growth of 34 per cent since 2016 which recorded 16,489 arrivals,” Balala said.
Sam Ikwaye, the Coast Executive Director of Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers, said the arrival of the charter flights is a sign of good business.
He said when the charter flights pulled out of the region in 2013-2014, Mombasa lost over 70 per cent of international arrivals.
“Over the years we have been complaining that charter flights were not coming. We are now glad that we have started seeing them coming back, “Ikwaye said. “Business is now going to grow. We hope that we shall be able to sustain all the markets.”
The United Kingdom, Germany and Italy also contribute to the highest arrival numbers in the country with a majority of the visitors heading to the coast.
In the last financial year, tourism raked in Sh3.7 billion in revenue from the Charter Incentive Programme that was launched in 2016,
Tourism CS Najib Balala in a statement yesterday attributed this to the high number of flights and visitors coming to Mombasa.
“I am glad to state that the Charter Incentive Programme is working. Moi International Airport, Mombasa is now receiving 15 charter flights per week, up from nine weekly last year, ” he said.
The CS said the Sh1.2 billion programme which has been extended to 2020, raked in nearly 18 times in revenue to Kenya’s tourism sector.
The government has only spent Sh200 million on the programme since 2016. There are talks to have it extended to 2022.
“We are in talks with the National Treasury to see that the programme is extended to 2022 because by that time we shall have all the infrastructure in place,” Balala said.
Since its launch to March this year, there have been 55,000 arrivals into Mombasa and the surrounding coastal region.
Kenya Tourism Board Coast regional manager Jonathan Mbiyu on Sunday estimated that 8,000 tourists will have arrived in Mombasa by 2019.
“This a major boost to tourism business in the region after it had recorded a drop as a result of negative travel advisories,” Mbiyu said.
Kenya Tourists Federation chair Mohammed Hersi said the coast region has over 40,000-bed capacity, therefore can comfortably accommodate the influx.
Balala also announced that the ministry will call for a Tourism Convection at the coast region in December to bring on board all the coastal counties.
Under the program, all tourist charter aircraft with 80 per cent of passengers terminating at Moi International Airport Mombasa and Malindi Airport do not pay landing fees for a period of two and a half years.
The airlines also enjoy a passenger subsidy of Sh3000 per seat filled by international passengers who terminate or disembark in Kenya over the same period.