Kenya’s tourism gurus ask for incentives to entice more airlines come to Mombasa


(Posted 16th September 2013)

The news last week that Swiss charter airline EDELWEISS has confirmed their withdrawal from the Mombasa route next summer, and added information sourced since then indicating that returning for the 2014/15 winter high season presently stands a knife’s edge – airline officials are understandably cautious to commit themselves when there is a likelihood that they may indeed leave Mombasa out for the foreseeable future – has gotten coast hoteliers all wound up. ‘At at time when we lose one charter after the other, it is time for our government to re-assess their aviation access policy to the Kenya coast. My colleagues and I understand that tour operators in Europe are reluctant to give seat guarantees under the present demand situation for holidays at our beaches. And we understand that the airlines will not take the risk themselves and in the absence of guarantees rather stop a flight. Now is the time to get talking to scheduled airlines. Brussels Airlines last year also announced they would not after all come to Mombasa after first raising the prospects of a once a week flight. You wrote that often enough that Qatar Airways was planning to fly from Doha via Dar es Salaam to Mombasa. They were completely frustrated when their planned route for an extra flight via Nairobi to Kilimanjaro did at the last moment not get fifth freedom traffic rights for the sector between NBO and JRO. It is time to eat humble pie and invite Qatar Airways back and give them such incentives. Perhaps they can combine Mombasa with Zanzibar? Zanzibar just got a second flight announced by Mango from Johannesburg. Zanzibar as I read from your articles got issues, we in Mombasa got issues too but why is the Kenya coast with so many choices of top resorts and in fact for all budgets less attractive for the South African market? Cannot our own Kenya Airways route a few of their more than two dozen weekly flights to Johannesburg via Mombasa?

But we all know this is only one of the issues, getting airlines to commit flights to Kenya and in particular to Mombasa. We also need to take a hard look at our own image. There are perhaps a dozen, maybe less resorts along the coast which regularly upgrade and modernize and I mean REGULARLY. For me it is no surprise that those are doing a lot better than others. Innovation, new services, new look, well trained staff, that is the key and not hanging on for the food and entertainment programmes which were there when you lived in Mombasa. Our beaches still are the best, we managed to curtail the beach boy and vendor activities and KWS patrols our marine parks to avoid pollution and visitors destroying them by picking up things or walk on fragile corals. I hope we can have a national tourism dialogue soon so that every stakeholder can give proposals and make recommendations who we, the private sector, want things shook up and given a new shape. And finally let us have clarity on what budget government will give KTB. The proposed expenditure is on the table, the regions of the world laid out and now, can we please have the cash to do that after those reckless tax increases? Bring some of that money back what you take out of tourisms pocket; that is my message to our government’ commented a regular coast based source in a series of emails on the subject of airlines coming directly to Mombasa.

On the upside has Kenya in the past shown remarkable strength to adjust and emerge stronger but it is acknowledged that these are difficult times and that the recent tax increases on tourism services may yet cause more woes for the tourism sector, as in being that last proverbial straw which could break a back. The spirit of working hand in hand with government is visible and vibrant but many pieces of this puzzle must fall into place to make a bright picture emerge. Watch this space.

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