Tuesday, June 18, 2013

KQ fortunes on Eldoret route bright, says airport

PHOTO | FILE

PHOTO | FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By GERALD ANDAE gandae@ke.nationmedia.com

Growth in the number of travellers and the grounding of one of the local airlines has worked to the advantage of the national carrier, which has seen it introduce extra flights to Eldoret.

Kenya Airways has increased the frequency of its flights to the Eldoret International Airport to 14 in a week to tap into high demand by passengers. This comes barely a year since KQ reintroduced its services to the North Rift town after withdrawing for almost a decade, citing low business.

Financial woes

Jetlink, one of its rivals which had been plying the route, grounded its services owing to financial woes, creating room for more demand given that the airport has been left with two flights — KQ and Fly540.

According to the North Rift region tourism manager, Mr Richard Chepkwony, there has been an increase in the number of tourists eager to explore the beautiful scenes and the wildlife in the region.

“It is not in doubt that the number of both local and international tourists is growing significantly, hence the need for more flights to absorb the increased numbers of passengers seeking to visit North Rift,” said Mr Chepkwony.

The chairman of the local branch of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Charles Mose, said both local and international visitors are thronging the region seeking something new.

“For long, people have been identifying themselves with the major national parks like Nairobi, Tsavo, and Maasai Mara, but of late there has been a change of heart, with many people visiting the North Rift region,” said Mr Mose.

He said the uniqueness of the elephant cage at the Mt Elgon National Park, which is the only one in Africa, has played a significant role in pushing up the number of visitors. “The elephant cage has been a great centre of attraction for both local and international visitors, given that it is the only place in Africa where elephants stay in a cage,” said Mr Mose.

Meet high demand

Other tourist attraction sites in the region include the Kitale Museum, Saiwa and Rimoi national parks, and the Nature Conservancy in Kitale.

Mr Peter Wafula, the manager at the Eldoret airport, said increased numbers of passengers has forced Kenya Airways to add more flights to meet the high demand.

“It is evident that in the recent past, the number of travellers has been growing and service providers have been keen to tap into this market by increasing the number of flights,” he said.

The manager said the airport has become a key business hub in the North Rift, especially with the presence of two direct international flights. It receives two direct cargo flights from the Middle East every week that bring in electronic goods and take out horticultural products.

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