By Hasnain Noorani

Opening up Kenyan skies could be a major boost to tourism in Kenya and may offer the hospitality sector the much-needed silver lining to pull up international arrival and domestic numbers.

Juicier is the projection of a 25 percent fall in cost of air fares when the Open Sky policy is fully implemented making air travel more affordable to our clientele.

Driving down prices means that more people will travel and would have more options in terms of both airline and itinerary to boost their experience.

It is estimated that opening of African air routes would add $76.9 million (Sh8.14 billion) to the country’s GDP every year.  This is a first indicator to the ripple effects related sectors such as hospitality will benefit from to boost customer experience.

The open skies treaty which was signed in February this year during the African Union (AU) Summit on governance in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is set to make it easier for Africans to visit African countries without the back and forth of long paperwork visa applications or expensive, long-winding air travel and will inadvertently boost the continent’s economy.

As part of African Union’s move to improve connectivity and integrate countries, the national carrier, Kenya Airways would on the other hand enjoy unrestricted access and multiple destinations to any city in the countries under the arrangement. The hospitality sector therefore is expected to benefit from this development through increased inbound traffic.

Additional air traffic will not only bring consumer benefits but also requires additional resources to handle the greater demand. This will generate employment both in the aviation industry and, due to the multiplier effect of aviation, in supporting industries which form part of the supply chain. Indirect employment is more likely to be several times larger than the direct employment.

The increase in tourism business to Kenya will also boost local tour operators business.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an open air policy in Africa will inject $1.3 billion (Sh136 billion) to the continent’s gross domestic product every year creating 150,000 additional jobs.

The most recent deal between Kenya and Ethiopia granting Ethiopian Airlines an additional frequency on the Mombasa route in an agreement between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali sends some hope towards the implementation of open sky Policy. This agreement will boost coastal tourism which for a long time has depended heavily on charter flights especially from Europe.

It is indeed true that opening skies in Kenya would mean delivering hundreds of thousands of visitors to Kenyan cities, who would spend thousands of shillings at coastal hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, attractions, beach and marine parks. They would bolster tax revenues for communities, increase revenue for airports and provide connecting passengers for domestic airlines like Jambo jet, Fly 540 among others hence bolstering their ability to compete with larger carriers.

To accelerate sustainability of tourism development at the Coast, the government therefor ought to hasten the opening up of skies starting with Mombasa so that airlines from across the world can operate flights to Moi International Airport.

Such development would sell destinations like Mombasa internationally as a Meeting Incentive Conference and Exhibition (MICE) destination. Embracing this policy will compliment Mombasa’s attractiveness especially when it comes to the ease of doing business. Liberalization of air transport contributes to greater trade and tourism, inward investment, productivity growth, increased employment and economic, all this would contribute heavily towards the quest of achieving Kenya’s vision 2030.

Kenyan cities have recently been ranked among the top 10 global destinations for 2018, according to TripAdvisor. With a majority being younger business travelers seeking to gain cultural experiences and to explore Kenyan cities the revolutionary policy can only open to the more possibilities and drive more spend to the tourism industry.

Mr. Noorani is the Managing Director and founder of PrideInn Hotels


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