BY GIDEON MAUNDU
Kenya’s limping tourism industry got a shot in the arm when 116 travellers jetted at the Moi Interntional Airport aboard a Romanian chartered flight that brought life to the listless facility bombarded by the COVID 19 onslaught.
A Kenyan tour company, Private safaris East Africa in conjunction with Tarom Air arranged this arrival to be the first of the nine rotations that starts this month and runs to August this year.
The enthusiast travellers embarked from the plane to be greeted by Kenya’s Coast traditional dance spiced with sips of madafu (coconut waters) gesture while sector stakeholders broke into smiles as 116 checked out from immigration officials.
Dr Betty Radier, the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) chief executive officer, was beside herself as the flight provided a ray of hope for the industry that has battered by the ongoing pandemic.
Visibly elated, the CEO noted that Eastern Europe was a key market that Kenya was banking on for the revival of its sector.
“This flight is coming at an important time when our tourism sector like other destinations globally is working towards a recovery following the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Europe is one of our key source markets for international tourists, therefore, this flight is a signal of the continued revival program,” she said.
Eastern Europe, according to her, shows a great potential to exploit in boosting international arrival numbers at the country’s land, air or sea entry points.
“This market is promising and Eastern Europe could be the magic wand to boost our numbers in our efforts to recover the industry,” she added.
The market has been growing in bounds, especially due to the growing bilateral, political, and social-economic relationships between Kenya and countries of the region.
But this does not mean the country is abandoning its traditional markets of Western Europe and the Americas.
These arrivals, signal the growing confidence in Kenya’s COVID 19 preparedness and management, to lure foreign travellers to visit its destinations without the fear of the pandemic.
“We are proud to receive this flight because it is a sign that the work towards reassuring our clients of their safety within Kenya has been fruitful. We shall continue to market Kenya to the world to ensure that we tap into each available market. That said, this flight is a signal of this growth and confidence in Magical Kenya as a preferred destination,” said Dr Radier.
As a key segment of the tourism industry, KTB is all out to fast-track marketing strategies that have kept the destination alive during the prolonged period of the pandemic that has slowed down travel.
“It is in our interest as a destination to see more chartered flights coming into the country, bringing in tourists because tourism is one of our main economic sectors. I therefore assure organizers of chartered flights of our commitment and support as we work together as we look forward to hosting more charter flights from other destinations.”
Meanwhile, the board remains extremely grateful to the domestic market for anchoring the tourism sector throughout the prolonged crisis since the country announced its first coronavirus victim on March 13, 2020.
The charter flight business has been a catalyst for Kenya’s tourism circuit at the Coast region’s destinations. At the close of the 2019/2020 winter season only eight (8) charters were feeding into the coastal market.