CS Najib Balala announces Sh1.2 billion subsidy to lure tourists back

Tourism CS Najib Balala (left) with Foreign Affairs counterpart Amina Mohamed at KICC. Balala announced that the State will spend Sh1.2 billion to encourage charter planes to the coast. [PHOTO:FIDELIS KABUNYI/standard]
NAIROBI: The Government has announced a new raft of incentives to help increase the number of tourists flying to Mombasa and Malindi via chartered planes.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said all chartered planes with passengers terminating at Moi International Airport (Mombasa) and Malindi Airport will be exempted from landing fees for 30 months, starting January 1, 2016.

Further, in a Sh1.2 billion package, the ministry announced a Sh3,000 ($30) per seat subsidy for international passengers land at the two airports over the same period, a move seen to boost the ailing hospitality industry.

Mr Balala added that myriad challenges including security had plunged the sector into crisis but through the transformative agenda, he hopes to see the number of tourists grow. Currently, Mombasa’s Moi International Airport receives only three chartered airlines down from the average 30 in the recent past.

SEE ALSO :Kenya’s half-year tourist numbers fall slightly by 1pc

“It is worthy to note that security has greatly improved and it is time for tourist charter planes to resume flights into Kenya. It is in this regard that we have unveiled this plan,” said Balala.

To enjoy this attractive package, the airlines will be required to ensure at least 80 per cent of passengers they bring in are terminating at Mombasa or Malindi. In addition, the airlines must commit to operate on the Kenyan route for a minimum of two consecutive years.

Balala said the ministry picked the two destinations because they are preferred destinations for most tourists. It is estimated that a plane carrying an average of 290 passengers injects about Sh1.65 billion into the economy per week.

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Through the initiative, the government hopes to inject life into a sector that has been struggling especially since international community started issuing travel advisories. The airlines are expected to respond by increasing their route frequencies and also encourage more tourists to tour the Kenyan coast.

A committee drawing members from Kenya tourism Board, Kenya Airports Authority and Immigration will be set up to implement and monitor the progress of the programme.

SEE ALSO :Mombasa County gets it's first five star hotel

“We will continue to monitor, evaluate and adjust these incentives every six months in order to suit prevailing market conditions,” said Balala adding that the incentives will extend up to June 2018.

Coming at a time when Kenya has been on global headline following US President Obama visit, Pope Francis’ tour and the just concluded 10th World Trade Organisation 10th Ministerial Conference, the incentives may offer more lifeline to tourism, which is Kenya’s chief source of foreign currency.

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Najib BalalaMalindichartered planes