KENYAS TOURISM MINISTER RUSHES TO MEND FENCES WITH QATAR AIRWAYS
The recent launch of Qatar Airways 5th East African destination, Kilimanjaro, due to have operated from Doha via Nairobi to JRO, found itself with an unexpected new routing as Kenyan authorities, reportedly at the very last moment perhaps in a warped sense to inflict maximum damage withheld 5th freedom rights approvals for the sector between Nairobi and Kilimanjaro, compelling the airline to combine JRO with their daily flights to Dar es Salaam, in the process scuttling plans to promote cross border tourism itineraries for the two countries for Qatar Airways passengers.
It is now speculated that the subsequent announcement that the inaugural flight to Qatar Airways planned 6th destination in East Africa, Mombasa, initially due for the 15th of August, was postponed as a reaction to this sudden change of heart by the Kenyan government and aviation authorities.
A precedent in fact for such arrangements has been set in neighbouring Uganda, where the daily flight of Qatar Airways between Entebbe to Kigali has full traffic rights and has helped to make the daily flights to both destinations financially more viable, linking the world to Uganda and Rwanda via QRs hub in Doha.
A regular source close to the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority refused to comment on the development, citing higher authorities, an answer all by itself over what has been going on behind the scenes. It comes as no surprise therefore that, faced with the postponement of the much hoped for scheduled daily flight to Mombasa, incidentally due to be operated via Dar es Salaam and also with 5th freedom rights requested as a prerequisite, that Kenyas Tourism Minister Dan Mwazo rushed to pour oil on the stormy waters when he met QRs Vice President in Nairobi earlier this week. He was quoted as having said: For purposes of economic growth and stability, Kenya needs to embrace partnership with other countries by eliminating any impediments that may ruin the tourism industry, seen as an admission that an error of judgement appears to have been made and needed urgent correction.
Tourism to Kenya, for a number of reasons, has shown a decline since establishing a new arrival and revenue record last year, and in particular coast hotels have been at the receiving end of this downturn.
Not all is well about coast tourism right now said a frequent contributor from Mombasa to this correspondents news stories before continuing Right now we have our own school holidays which bring domestic tourists to our resorts. But it should be said, this is heavily discounted business of course to make it affordable for Kenyans. Foreign visitors pay higher tariffs and therefore their business is crucial for our bottom line. Our new tourism minister has failed us when the budget for tourism marketing was set. Balala [the former
tourism minister sacked by his party boss for telling the plain truth
about interparty democracy] came from Mombasa and understood what the sector needs. He fought for us in cabinet. Mwazo lacks these properties and still has to make a compelling case for himself being the tourism minister. We have less purchasing power, a lot less, to pay for tourism marketing this year and we feel abandoned by government. KTB urgently needs more money. We are in a pre-election year and must work the overseas markets now to be sure of having business next year when the elections come in March. Any change in the fortunes of tourism will have a big impact on Kenya. Jobs are immediately at risk, investments are slowing down, forex earnings are down. There are good examples how more marketing dollars translate into more of those issues I just mentioned, more jobs, more investment, more income and then more returns for government. But instead they are even now trying to make tourism services a VAT item and again, our minister has been silent when he should have stood up and said NO in cabinet. Lets see if he can give Qatar Airways what those fellows need to fly more to Kenya and especially to Mombasa. We need that flight, we need their promotions and exposure.
Predictably would Qatar Airways not comment on the matter, though individuals contacted did express their personal disappointment over the last minute changes imposed on the planned flight operation and routing. Time will tell if anything gives in coming weeks and when the inaugural flights of Qatar Airways to Mombasa will finally take place, or rather if it will take place given the circumstances as seen right now. Watch this space.