As the peak season gathers momentum, Mombasa is looking to have unprecedented number of tourists, thanks to the increased number of direct international airlines landing at the coastal city.
The city, known as Kenya’s gateway, has seen seven airlines launch dedicated international flights to serve the rising number of tourists eager to sample the sunny, sandy beaches and a wide menu of other attractions.
Tourism Board (KTB) chief executive officer Betty Radier said the rise in the number of direct flights to Moi International Airport Mombasa is a global endorsement of Mombasa by tourists from Europe, US and the Middle East.
“This is good news for the hospitality sector and business as a whole. KTB and Qatar Airways will work closely to grow tourists’ number to Mombasa. Similar plans are also underway with other aircraft operators,” Dr Radier said when she received 150 passengers aboard the Doha-based Qatar Airways, which was making its maiden flight to Kenya.
Operating on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, Qatar Airways said it will fly in 500 tourists from its Doha international airport base.
The airline is using an Airbus A320 aircraft that features 12 business class seats and 120 economy class seats.
Ethiopia Airlines is also operating daily flights to Mombasa from Bole International Airport, which arrives at 5.30pm, since March when it was granted a licence.
Mombasa also receives RwandAir twice a week from Kigali with TUI Belgium operating direct charter flights to Mombasa weekly. Kenya Airways and Turkish Airlines also operate from the airport.
According to KTB, Mombasa airport enjoyed a 46 per cent growth, with 84,286 visitors arriving in the past nine months up from 57,588.
With Qatar’s inaugural flight, Kenya is set to receive visitors mainly from her key European tourist source markets such as Italy, Germany, United Kingdom (UK) and France.
Traditionally, Mombasa has relied on Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where its visitors alight before boarding connecting flights, making the journey expensive and long. But this is changing with more direct flights.
Dr Radier said more airlines have expressed interest in launching direct Mombasa flights from their foreign bases, giving tourists a cheaper option of reaching the Kenyan coast.
Apart from airlines, Mombasa is also receiving more cruise ships. The number of such ships are expected to increase once a Sh450 million modern docking facility that will incorporate a hotel, an immigration centre, among other social amenities, is completed next July.
The new cruise ship docking area will further boost tourist arrivals to Mombasa, which saw 4,747 high-spending tourists from Britain, America and Canada visit Mombasa between October 2017 and March 2018.
Ships that docked included MS Isgnia with 1,066 tourists and Fulk Al Salamah (ship of peace), the Omani luxury cruise ship, that had 350 passengers on board.
On its first trip, Ms Silver Spirit brought in 472 tourists and 365 crew members before returning with 890 tourists on its second trip while Norwegian vessel Ms Nautica brought in 642 tourists and a further 962 passengers.
Currently, Mombasa is enjoying a Sh1 billion charter subsidy programme that caters for Eastern European markets, which saw 55,000 tourists jet into coastal resorts where they spent Sh3.7 billion.
Under the programme, children aged below 16 accompanying their parents enjoy visa-free entry while national park fees are capped at Sh6,000 from the regular Sh9,000. Charter operators whose 80 per cent of tourists end their journeys at Mombasa enjoy a Sh3,000 rebate per tourist.
Dr Radier said Mombasa is set for bigger things once the charter incentive programme is reviewed to include other key tourist sources for Kenya.
Among its major attractions include Fort Jesus, Gedi Ruins, its white beaches, marine park, archeological sites as well as Lamu town, a designated World Heritage Site.