Charter flights to Mombasa by Italian firm Blue Panorama are set to resume in July, Tourism minister Najib Balala announced.
The flights from one of the country’s leading tourist source markets are a sign of confidence in Kenya following aggressive marketing by various players in the industry.
The minister made the announcement upon his arrival from a 10-day tour of Europe last week, where he launched the country’s tourism recovery campaign, titled ‘Kenya – A New Beginning.’
The campaign saw him visit the UK, Germany, Sweden and Italy where he met with major tour operators and conducted various media campaigns. During his tour he committed Sh768 million to be used for marketing in Kenya’s traditional markets of UK, Italy, Germany and US.
“The money will be used to improve the image of Kenya and rejuvenate tourism revenues for the summer and winter of 2008 season,” he noted.
Apart from Blue Panorama the minister announced the intended resumption of several other European charter flights to the country towards the end of the year.
The cancellation of charter flights led to low occupancy rates in hotels, which caused closures of some and layoff of workers.
To date, only a few charter flights have resumed operations but with thin schedules. In order to optimise, major tour operators like Somak, Kuoni, African Safaris, Thomas Cook, and Cosmos have come together and are booking their clients for joint flights.
Coast hotels have been witnessing a slow rise in hotel occupancy, which has been driven by tourists from scheduled flights, Mr Mohamed Hersi of Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC) said.
“These flights are now cushioning our businesses, but we still need more tourists to come in,” he added.
Serena Hotel’s general manager in Mombasa, Charles Muia, also notes that conferences have increased business for some of the outlets at the coast. ” Regional and local conferences have seen us through this trying time and brought some business our way,” he said.
These activities have enabled outlets to improve their occupancy rates compared to earlier in the year. On a good week Mr Hersi’s hotel can record an occupancy rate of 80 per cent.
In addition both hotel managers agree that domestic tourists have also helped the hotels through the tough period, with more Kenyans travelling to enjoy the beaches compared to the same period last year.
In general, most of the hotels are currently recording an occupancy rate of between 30 to 35 per cent, which is still lower than what is expected at this time of the year.