Hoteliers call for flight charter renewal to lift

Moi International Airport

Tourists who arrived at the Moi International Airport disembark from the Poland chartered flight.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Kenya will offer incentives to industry players to boost its international market.
  • Support infrastructure such as roads, airports and airstrips within the region have complemented the milestones.

Hoteliers are pushing for renewal of the expired Charter Incentive Programme (CIP) to attract more flights to the Kenyan Coast to boost international tourist arrivals.

Last year, the country's international tourism sector suffered a slump due to the coronavirus pandemic recording a massive drop in numbers.

Tourism Research Institute shows some 470, 971 tourists visited Kenya from January to October compared to 1.7 million in 2019. However, international tourism declined by 72 percent during the same period.

But hoteliers are now pegging on CIP to shore up the numbers. For the past one month, the Kenyan coast has been attracting charter flights.

During the pandemic, the first Polish charter flight touched down at Moi International Airport, in Mombasa on December 12 carrying over 150 international tourists.

On December 19, 26 and January 2 the flight brought more tourists. The charter will be flying directly to the international airport every Saturday bringing over 150 international tourists for more than 10-days holiday at the Kenyan Coast and safari itinerary.

Tourist flights

Kenya Tourism Federation said the government is renewing the expired CIP to boost international numbers, which suffered a slump last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kenya will offer incentives to industry players to boost its international market.

Since the launch of the programme in 2016 with Sh1.2 billion package by the government, Kenya has recorded a growth of tourism numbers into the coastal region, statistics from the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife shows. That was until the coronavirus advent which hit the numbers.

The success of the incentive helped re-position the Kenyan Coast as a tourism hub. Support infrastructure such as roads, airports and airstrips within the region have complemented the milestones.

CIP was aimed at subsidising the cost of tourist flights by charters, stimulating demand for Kenya by new charters while encouraging operators already flying to Kenya to increase their route frequencies and rewarding airlines that make long-term capacity growth commitments to bring tourists to experience Kenya’s beach product.

“Under the programme, all tourist charter aircraft with passengers terminating at Moi International Airport Mombasa and Malindi Airport were exempted from landing fees for a period of two and a half years.

Passenger subsidy of $30 per seat filled by international passengers who terminate or disembark in Kenya over the same period,” stated Kenya Tourism Board on their website.

Infrastructure works

But in order to benefit from the programme, charter airlines were required to ensure a minimum of 80 percent of the passengers brought by any carrier must be terminating in Kenya and commit to operate the Kenya route for a minimum of at least two consecutive years.

The government earned a revenue of Sh3.7 billion since the launch of CIP. In a past interview, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said the government would extend CIP to 2022 instead of 2019 which they had estimated in its conception to pave the way for the completion of all the infrastructure works ongoing at the Coast.

With the extension of CIP, more charter operators are expected to resume flights into the destination for the winter season.

“CIP expired but the government assured us it is in the process of renewing and refreshing the programme. We are working with the Cabinet Secretary Tourism and Wildlife whom we hope will link with his Treasury counterpart Ukur Yatani to approve it. We are hopeful that we will entice more charters once it is renewed,” said Kernya Tourism Federation National Chairman Mohamed Hersi.

The federation, is an umbrella body representing all tourism associations in Kenya.

In an interview with Smart Business, Mr Hersi said once it has been refreshed, the industry players will approach international charters to pick Mombasa route as a destination.

“You need to incentivise international charters with landing fees. CIP was such an elaborate plan,” added Mr Hersi who is Pollman’s tours and safaris director.

Kenya Coast Tourism Association Chairman Victor Shitakha said this year looks promising but may be marred with political campaigns that may not be good for the industry.

watieno@ke.nationmedia.com

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