KENYA TOURISM SUFFERS FRESH BLOW WITH GULF AIR WITHDRAWAL
Phones were running hot last evening after posting the breaking news that Gulf Air was halting their flights from Bahrain to Nairobi, information received by many with incredulity until the official airline statement was then posted at the website www.gulfair.com for all to see and verify.
‘You are turning into a regular doom sayer’ argued one regular source from Nairobi as if the messenger, aka yours truly, was making the news rather than reporting about them.
Statistics from the Kenya Tourist Board, as published here a few days ago, showed an overall drop in arrivals, mainly caused by the sharp fall of tourist visitors to the Kenya coast, where several charter flights have been withdrawn, will be withdrawn or in two cased already announced flight starts were cancelled.
While generally traffic into Nairobi has shown a modest growth, the departure of Virgin in September and now of Gulf in November will undoubtedly make a dent into the Nairobi arrival statistics too and with elections coming up in March next year, the tourism industry has shown increasing signs of concern over the emerging trends. This development is something remarkably not shared though by Danson Mwazo, Minister for Tourism, who seems to believe still that Kenya would overtake the arrival and revenue records set in 2011 according to statements made in recent weeks.
Said a senior tourism stakeholder in response to the question posed about the likely impact of this latest airline proposal: ‘This is a very unexpected turn of events. I was at a Gulf Air dinner a few weeks ago at the Stanley and now this? Every airline coming to Nairobi markets Kenya abroad and across their network. This is important because it supports our own tourist board’s efforts. The private sector often partners with them and when we go to promote our country we do joint ventures, team up at venues abroad, get travel concessions. When such an airline goes it makes negative headlines. It casts doubts on others looking at Nairobi wondering why do they withdraw, what did we miss? There may be others to fill the gap in the future, we sure hope so but that might take concessions from our government. We want to know the truth about Qatar Airways which had intended to fly a new service via Nairobi to Kilimanjaro and from Dar es Salaam to Mombasa. What happened, what was promised to them and what were the circumstances of the last moment changes. Here our government can play a role in bringing in airlines, by lowering all those ridiculous charges the KCAA has raised by in part 400 percent and by taxation which makes aviation too expensive. Let us start there to create the circumstances for airlines wanting to come here.’
Space for improvements, space for overdue changes, space for bringing the cost of doing business in the tourism and aviation industry down. Watch this space in coming weeks to learn exactly what gaps the departure of the Flying Falcon, aka Gulf Air will open up.