Tourism bosses want return of Turkish Airlines

A leaked memo from a senior marketing executive with an international airline that used to fly into Moi International Airport (MIA), Mombasa, has led to a barrage of condemnation over the government’s alleged inactiveness to sanction its return flights to Mombasa.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast branch executive officer Dr Sam Ikwaye alleged that the State was giving cold shoulder to tourism revival by trying to over-protect the national carrier, Kenya Airways.

The memo addressed to travel partners read: “Although we wanted to start our MIA flights this summer of 2022, unfortunately, we could not get the necessary permission from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA). For this reason, we regret to state that we had to cancel our Mombasa flights until October 29, 2022,’’ read the memo from the Turkish Airlines marketing team.

Tourism stakeholders from the Coast have been calling for the implementation of the open skies policy to enable international flights to land directly in Mombasa.

The players said easing the entry of foreign airlines to Mombasa will boost the sector.

Kenya Coast Tourism Association Chairman Mr Victor Shitakah said Qatar and Turkish Airlines need to be encouraged and given access to fly to Mombasa. [Philip Mwakio]

He said the Fly Emirates and Fly Dubai are also keen on the Mombasa route

Open skies policy means liberalisation and ease of access and rules of use of national airports for foreign airlines.

Ikwaye termed the latest development as very disturbing news for the ailing tourism industry.

‘’There are people serving in very senior government positions who have closed minds in charge of basic economic policies meant to unlock our potential as a tourism and trading hub,” Ikwaye said.

He said that many airlines seek to fly to Mombasa in an arrangement that will cause liberation and ease of access and use of national airports by other foreign airlines.

He further wondered why anyone would deny an opportunity that will potentially increase the tourist flow and develop the potential as a regional air hub while improving flexibility for airline operations.

‘’The move by the government to fail to act on new  initiatives is bordering on economic sabotage towards the Coastal region which is struggling to shift from the vocational destination,” he said.

He said that by all standards, opening the skies to other airlines is pro-consumer, pro-competition and pro-growth.

“This would be the best time to support the industry after post-Covid-19 pandemic because the move would promote increased travel and trade, spur the creation of high-quality jobs in the region while facilitating expanded economic growth,” he said.

Ikwaye said that tourism players are optimistic that Turkish Airlines and others are considering flying to Mombasa.

 “They want to land directly but they are being told to land in Nairobi. Guests are complaining of the hectic procedures. Someone coming from the United Kingdom, an eight-hour flight, has to catch another domestic flight with heavy bags. That is very tiring,” said Shitakha.

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