There has been growing indication since the new e-visa rules were imposed by the Kenyan government, which will require all visitors to have their visa in advance from September 1. Under these rules, the visa on arrival will no longer be issued, and travelers without a visa may be denied boarding by airlines.
When breaking the news in Kenya, a small but vocal section cried immediately foul, even suspecting that the article was misleading. Later on when the truth was told, they exposed the hasty government decision and its likely impact on tourism arrivals.
A significant number of complaints have already been received over the slow pace of processing the e-visa. Moreover, the maximum period of 7 days has in many cases been exceeded, prompting travelers to get their visa on arrival as usual for as long as that facility still exists.
Senior tourism stakeholders have quietly suggested to this correspondent that they have taken the fight to government, equating the decision with the ill-fated imposition of VAT (value-added tax) two years ago, which caused some serious damage to the Kenyan tourism industry at a time when arrivals were beginning to nosedive.
“For obvious reasons you cannot use my name because this is a sensitive issue we are discussing with the government right now. When Britain removed some of their harsh language from their travel advice for Kenya, things started to look up, and additional charters from Germany and Italy have reversed the trend of falling arrivals. But with more tourists, come[s] also the logistical challenges of processing [the] e-visa in time. There is a bottleneck no doubt, and we do not want to lose visitors because of bureaucratic obstacles. Our proposal is to keep the visa on arrival facility open alongside the e-visa process. Bonafide tourists should be able to get [a] visa when they arrive in Nairobi or Mombasa just like Egypt is also making that exception.
“I must also add that you were right when you cautioned about the loss of last-minute bookings. There was some doubt, but it has now been established that it could be as much as ten percent of our visitors who decide at the very last minute where to spend their vacation. Tickets often are heavily discounted just to fill remaining seats, and we should not deny such tourists entry and push them to Thailand or Sri Lanka or even Uganda where they get visa on arrival.”
Perhaps some common sense will prevail in the end and the tourism industry can get their way to remove a potentially big obstacle to fast-tracking the sector’s recovery.