KENYA’S TOURISM SECTOR SHELL SHOCKED OVER NEW VISA RULES FOR SOUTH AFRICANS
(Posted 18th June 2014)
Frustration, resignation, anger and even rage were the emotions encountered when confronting senior tourism stakeholders in Kenya with the latest of the challenges thrown their way, this time by the Kenya High Commission in Pretoria, which as per the letter obtained from a reliable source in Kenya, given to them alongside the cancellation of confirmed holiday arrangements at the Kenya coast by a South African travel agent. Most were not even aware of these changes, leaving them bewildered and up in arms, promising to unleash a storm on Kenya’s social media to reverse this ridiculous measure through a directive from higher authorities.
‘I have no idea which dimwit has come up with this but to expect South African tourists to go in person to Pretoria for biometric picture taking, pay 70 Dollars per person for the privilege to come to Kenya and provide a letter from someone in Kenya inviting them – are they for real? Do they expect potential visitors from Cape Town or Durban or Port Elizabeth, all places Kenya Airways now codeshares flights with a South African partner, to spend extra money to fly to Pretoria just for a Visa. Who is kidding whom here. Who needs an invitation letter from Kenya when our tourist board advertises in South Africa and tells them to come and visit? I am furious about this because it will only drive potential visitors away and they will end up across the border in Tanzania or on Zanzibar where South Africans no longer need any visa at all. Less cost, direct flights at much lower fares than coming to Kenya and less trouble there, all factors which will have an impact. Last year South Africa was out largest source market beyond East Africa and if we lose that one we can as well pack up and change professions. The short time since announcing it last Friday to making it effective in two weeks’ time will result in cancellations of business already booked and to be honest, these people who wanted to come here, have a perfect reason to cancel. What the hell is going on in Kenya these days, it is almost like the police commissioner prohibiting tinted windows. Knee jerk reaction but one which can put the final nail in the coffin of Kenya’s tourism businesses’ wrote one source, adding he wanted to get his hands on the throat of the one responsible for this, what he called, administrative atrocity.
Meanwhile it should be pointed out that neighbouring Tanzania and Zanzibar, receiving direct flights from Johannesburg to Dar es Salaam by FastJet at the lowest possible fares and by South African Airways at regular fares, and nonstop services on Mango twice a week to Zanzibar from Johannesburg, no longer requires Visa at all for South African tourists and business visitors, reciprocating the lifting of similar requirements by South Africa for Tanzanian passport holders.
This is likely to substantially erode any remaining traffic from South Africa to Kenya in favour of Tanzania and Zanzibar, stripping yet more occupancy percentages away from resorts already hard hit and staring financial ruin in the face.
It was also confirmed by a regular aviation source close to Kenya Airways that the national airline was equally caught unaware and in particular the latest requirement to have South African travelers on KQ procure a transit Visa to travel through Nairobi will very likely impact substantially on load factors from South Africa on routes to Nairobi and beyond and drive wannabe passengers to other airlines where no such requirements are needed, such as Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa or Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad, all of which will again laugh all the way to the bank as they already do over the massive tax burden Kenya Airways now has to bear.
In closing, if there were conspiracy theories, this would be the mother of them all, suggesting that tourism in Kenya is being deliberately targeted from within and outside and driven to extinction, using all possible means and measures to make sure that the doors are closed. Quo Vadis Kenya Tourism? Quo Vadis?