The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, last month announced a series of initiatives to stimulate the tourism sector including reducing the fees at Kenya’s national parks and also reducing landing fees charged at both Moi International Airport and Malindi Airport.
Addressing the country’s tourism sector, Kenyatta said the country had seen a drop in international arrivals last year due to challenges relating to security. “With the recent advisories from some in our traditional source markets that account for about 46%, [the] tourism sector is likely to continue
facing difficulties,” he said.
Kenyatta said the government and stakeholders had agreed measures to grow tourist numbers in Kenya. With immediate effect, landing charges at Moi and Malindi airports would be reduced by 40% and 10% respectively. Fees at Kenya’s premium national parks would be reduced from $90 to $80. With effect from May 29, air ticketing services supplied by travel agents are exempt under VAT Act 2-13, to allow for competitive pricing.
According to the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), the body has held meeting with the office of the presidents as well as the private sector to come up with strategies to enable the recovery of the sector.
The initiatives have been welcomed by the trade, although it is unclear the measures will be enough to boost tourism to Kenya.
Roy Davies, of World Discovery, says he doesn’t think the initiatives will have an effect. “The reasons for people holding back from visiting Kenya are not financial, so cheaper prices in the circumstances are more or less irrelevant,” he explains. Davies adds that the travel advisories about Mombasa have further affected the situation.
Vivian McCarthy, GM Acacia Africa UK, also points out that security issues have affected travel to Kenya, but is more optimistic about the initiatives to boost tourism to the country. Commenting on the measures, McCarthy said: “Undoubtedly they will help and it shows the Kenyan government is responsive to issues affecting the tourist industry, which is a welcome and positive step taken by the authorities.”
He adds that the reduction in park fees is helpful because it is easy to explain the reduction to people. However, he adds that while reducing landing fees and exempting air ticketing services from VAT will help airlines, tour operators pass price reductions on to clients, because these costs are often hidden, reducing them may not carry the same perceptual clarity to the traveller.
McCarthy and Davies both point out that most of Kenya, including the game reserves, are safe for travel. However, safaris to Kenya have been affected by advisories. The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office advised against “all but essential” travel to Mombasa earlier in May. According to McCarthy, even though the company’s safaris do not go near Mombasa, they have been affected.
“I appreciate it is difficult for customers who have never travelled to Africa to appreciate the distances involved,” says McCarthy. “Would you avoid going to the Scottish Highlands because of a terrorist scare in London? The distances are roughly the same.” He adds that the FCO will need a period of calm before it can review the advisory. “Our hope is that they (and we) see that period of calm eventuate so the advisory can be lifted in good time.”
Source: Southern African Tourism Update