Coast pins its hopes on Gulf airlines to boost tourism

Monday August 22 2016

Tourists arrive at the Malindi airport in Kilifi County on August 16, 2014.

Tourists arrive at the Malindi airport in Kilifi County on August 16, 2014. PHOTO | FILE |  NATION

By MATHIAS RINGA

Tourism players at the Coast are banking on airlines from the Gulf to boost international tourist arrivals in the holiday resort.

Coast tourism, which has over the time been charter driven, has for the past three years been experiencing a low number of flights causing a major decline in visitors numbers.

Following terrorist attacks, most European charter airlines pulled out of the Mombasa route resulting into a fall in foreign holidaymakers.
Currently, there are no charter flights to Mombasa from the United Kingdom, which is Kenya’s leading tourist source market.

Those from Europe to Mombasa are only eight a week in the current high tourist season compared with 40 flights a week during the peak period of 2011.

Despite the government having introduced a Sh1.2 billion charter incentive programme last year in order to attract more charter airlines, only four operate flights to Mombasa.

Boom to tourism

They are German leisure airline Condor, Small Planet from Poland, Meridiana Fly and Neosair from Italy.

According to Kenya Coast Tourism Association chairman Mohamed Hersi, the era of tourism boom from charter airlines seems to be in the doldrums.

Mr Hersi said the tourism fraternity was pinning hope on the interest from Gulf airlines to operate flights to Mombasa to increase tourists flow in the region.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) low-cost carrier flydubai has been granted a license to introduce flights between Dubai and the coastal city.

“It was a step in the right direction for the government to have granted flydubai rights to operate scheduled flights to Mombasa,” he said.

“Tourism will rebound if more international airlines are granted rights to operate scheduled flights to Moi International Airport.”
Shown interest

Other airlines from the Gulf that have shown interest in operating flights to Mombasa, he added, include low-cost airline Air Arabia and Emirates Airlines.

Mr Hersi, who is also the chief executive officer at Heritage Hotels, said Emirates Airlines was interested in flying to Mombasa following improved security in the region.

Qatar Airways was among the airlines which had intended to operate on the route last year but was not granted a permit.
After its bid to get a licence to operate flights to Mombasa failed, the Qatar carrier secured rights to operate to Zanzibar.