Kenya needs tourists. Tourists would travel to Kenya on airlines. Why would Kenya stop a third daily wide body flight from Dubai to Nairobi? Struggling to return the country’s tourism industry to full strength has Kenya done an apparent U-turn on plans by Emirates, Dubai’s award winning airline, to launch a third daily flight from Dubai to Nairobi.
As elections loom later this year – the rhetoric of leading politicians is presently doing little to calm the nerves of tourism stakeholders – should the country be extra keen to attract more tourists from many more markets, regardless who flies them into the country, be it Mombasa or Nairobi.
However, Kenya has been loath to permit more foreign scheduled airlines to launch flights to the Kenyan coast’s main international airport and only RwandAir, Ethiopian and Turkish Airlines presently have landing rights. Qatar Airways and other carriers have so far been left out in the cold despite desperate pleas by the coast hospitality industry to change tack and allow foreign airlines to serve Mombasa.
An incentive regime by the Kenyan government, to attract more charter airlines back to Mombasa, has also not seen its potential fulfilled as many charter flights from the UK are still absent from the Kenya coast. Indications are that some may only resume flights after the August elections have come and gone peacefully as leading tour operators, and their airlines, are presently looking as contingency plans similar to what they did for the 2012 elections.
All the more are tourism sources now disturbed that Emirates, which had announced its intention to launch a third daily flight from Dubai to Nairobi to offer even better connectivity from around the world with much reduced waiting time, has apparently been targeted by the government’s Principal Secretary for Transport Mr. Irungu Nyakera.
The PS is quoted by media sources from Kenya to have written to Emirates in Nairobi advising that no permission will be granted for the third flight, regardless what the present Bilateral Air Services Agreement allows. This, if it is the final decision of the Kenya government – as the UAE surely will have something to say about the decision too – effectively denies the Kenyan tourism market for this year alone seven months of daily Boeing B777 services which could have brought thousands of more tourists to the country.
In turn would that flight have provided greater cargo capacity too to uplift chilled fish, fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers for Kenyan exporters who are keen to sell their products to the ready market places in the Gulf and beyond.
The situation is reminiscent of how in the past Qatar Airways was treated when they were days away from launching another flight to Nairobi to proceed on to Kilimanjaro while at the same time also about to launch a service from Doha to Dar es Salaam and onward to Mombasa. Both flights, and reliable sources from Qatar insist on that, had been verbally cleared but no letter was ever written until just days to the launch when Kenya blocked these flights too.
Tourism sources are said to be consulting right now with the aim to lobby government to allow one of the world’s leading international airlines the extra access to the Kenyan market while at the same time hoping that there will be no adverse reaction from the Gulf market place vis a vis marketing Kenya as a preferred year round vacation destination.