Kenya-US Direct Flights, A Great Opportunity for the Tourism Industry
The number of tourist arrivals in Kenya from the US could double, if Nairobi-US direct flights successfully commence from May, 2016.
Among foreign tourists, thousands of U.S. citizens visit Kenya every year, with approximately 120,000 Americans coming to Kenya in 2014, according to the Chief Executive Officer of the Kenyan Association of Hotelkeepers, Mike Macharia. It is therefore no doubt that the American tourists have contributed and continue to contribute largely to Kenya’s second largest source of foreign exchange revenue.
Yet, a Travel Leaders Group survey conducted between 4 and 29 August, 2014 among American travel agents, showed that bookings to Kenya went down by 34.6%. Analysts attributed this decrease to political skirmishes in the country, which made most Americans shy away from visiting Kenya, one of the highly favored tourist destinations.
Generally, the number of tourist arrivals in Kenya reduced to 61,340 in November 2015, from 72,490 in October the same year; following a wave of terror attacks in the country and an all-time depreciation of the Kenyan Shilling against the Dollar. This is according to a report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. However, security in the recent past which led to the lifting of travel advisories issued by several foreign governments to their citizens has seen Kenya’s $1bn per year tourism industry stabilize steadily.
We acknowledge the fact that the last 3 years have been tough for the tourism industry. Yet, the lackluster period notwithstanding, Kenya defied all odds; remained resilient and impressive to the world after appearing on the world’s list of top 10 destinations to visit in 2016.
Rough Guides, a UK travel publication ranked Kenya 9th globally and 1st in the African Continent; as a country with rich wildlife, beautiful beaches and unique landscapes, among other inspiring reasons to visit. As Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta put it at the opening of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Nairobi on July 2015,”Kenya is a hotbed of Vibrant Culture.”
Nairobi-US direct flights
Talking of the GES, let’s have a little flashback. Remember this statement by the US President Barack Obama, concerning direct flights between Kenya and the US? Obama said, “Our governments are working to facilitate the direct flights between US and Kenya as soon as possible,” He added, “Real progress has been made.” That statement, though ambivalent, sparked optimism among Kenyans and today, this hope is almost becoming a reality.
The direct flights, likely to commence in May, are highly anticipated by all tourism industry stakeholders in the country. "The fact that the US is likely to commence direct flights to Kenya is great news for the tourism industry. It means Americans have acknowledged that Kenya is a safe destination for leisure and business travels. However, as Jovago , we think that it is important for Kenya not only to rely on Western travelers, but diversify our source markets to become more resilient to external shocks,” Estelle Verdier, Managing Director of Jovago.com.
If Kenya successfully passes the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) audit expected to take place next month, then Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) will be upgraded to a category one status, which is a requirement for direct flights to the US. A minimum of 80% is required for Kenya to pass the IASA audit. “The number of Americans coming to Kenya could easily double or triple with the direct flights,” says Macharia.
Jovago.com is an online hotel booking service with offices in Kampala (Uganda) Lagos (Nigeria), Nairobi (Kenya) and Dakar (Senegal) founded by Africa Internet Group and has Rocket Internet, MTN, Millicom, AXA and Goldman Sachs as its investors. Jovago.com, Africa’s No.1 booking portal, facilitates the booking process for its users to provide them with the best hotel booking experience with fast, transparent and easy-to-use services. Jovago.com has over 25,000 local hotel listings across Africa and over 200,000 hotels around the world.