BY MATHIAS RINGA
A hotelier has supported the Kenyan government’s plans to extend the Charter Incentive Programme to 2020.
It comes after Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala’s announcement that the programme would be extended to 2020 as part of efforts to boost the tourism industry.
In 2016, the government introduced the charter incentive programme in a bid to uplift international tourist numbers at the Kenya coast.
Tourism at the Coast had hit its lowest ebb following the negative effects of terrorist attacks, which occurred in the country in 2014, and travel advisories issued by some western countries.
The incentive programme was aimed at encouraging more chartered airlines from Europe to fly tourists to the Coast for both leisure and safari.
In 2016, charter flights from Europe to Mombasa dropped to less than 10 a week, compared to the peak of 2011, in which more than 40 charter flights per week were recorded.
Over the years, the holiday destinations of Mombasa, Diani, Malindi, Watamu, Kilifi and Lamu have been depending on international holidaymakers mainly from European markets of the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and France.
In recent years, the coastal resort towns have also been receiving foreign tourists from the emerging markets of Eastern Europe, Scandinavian countries, India and China.
Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa managing director Bobby Kamani supported the government’s plans to extend the charter incentive programme to 2020, adding that it would boost international tourist arrivals at the Coast.
The hotelier welcomed the move, saying charter flights from Europe to Mombasa have been on the decline in the last five years, and since the charter incentive programme came to an end.
Mr Kamani said: “The programme, coupled with the ongoing infrastructure improvement projects in the region will further encourage more charter flights from Europe to fly to Mombasa.
“When more charter airlines fly to Mombasa, hotels in the region will enjoy a boom in business, while the government will earn more revenue from the tourism sector.”
“With the international marketing efforts by Kenya Tourism Board and the global exposure by Brand Kenya by way of the direct flights to New York, we can expect to see a regained, renewed and novel interest for international travellers visiting Kenya,” he added.
The hotelier noted that tourism recovery in the region would help create jobs, support businesses, which depend on tourism, as well as boost the country’s economy.
‘As we expect to see a higher number of international tourists arriving in the region, we can only hope for a further extension of the charter programme past 2020 for the industry to fully recover,” Mr Kamani added.
In 2016, the Kenyan government introduced a Sh1.2 billion CIP, which was aimed at subsidising the cost of tourists arriving by charters into the country.
The main purpose of the CIP was to stimulate demand for destinations in Kenya by introducing new charter airlines, while encouraging existing charters flying into Kenya to increase their route frequencies.
It further served as a reward for charter airlines that make long term capacity growth commitments to bring tourists to experience Kenya’s beach product.