Belgian airline resumes flights to Nairobi in boost to tourism

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport reception for Brussels Airlines after resuming flights into Kenya on Monday, June 3, 2024. [Courtesy]

Brussels Airlines has resumed flights into Nairobi after a nine-year absence, buoyed by Kenya’s growing corporate field and a resurgent tourism sector.

The Belgium flag carrier and a member of Lufthansa Group and Star Alliance touched down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday night with 288 travelers.

The resumption of the Belgian flag carrier’s flights to Nairobi brings to 18 the number of the group’s destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Kenya is now the second largest market by frequency for the group with five weekly flights by Lufthansa, six flights by Euro Wings Discover into Mombasa and the new six flights into Nairobi by Brussels Airline.

The service will boost passenger transfers for the diverse Belgian travel sector, which includes charter services, business travel and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) specialists, online travel agencies, and retail travel agents.

“We see a very high interest in our home market to explore Kenya,” said Brussels Airlines chief executive Dorothea von Boxberg.

“Our first flights to Nairobi are completely full. Nairobi is a vibrant city and the perfect gateway for an unforgettable trip to Kenya.”

She said the airline will also offer connections to Europe and beyond via Brussels to let Kenyans explore the world, study, or grow their businesses.
Von Boxberg noted that the airline is working on ways to have more flights going by the increased demand for business and leisure travel as well as a positive market reaction.

Data from Belgium’s statistical office, Statbel, shows Belgians made 6.92 million trips abroad in the third quarter of 2023, an  increase of 3.8 per cent, compared to the same period in 2022. However, international travel numbers have yet to reach the peak of 2019 when 7.15 million trips were recorded.

The preference for overseas travel remains high, with 64 per cent of Belgians likely to travel abroad for leisure in the next 12 months.

Cost and affordability are crucial factors for 34 per cent of Belgians when planning international trips.

Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) is looking to tap into these travel habits to grow visitor numbers “We are pleased to see this airline come back to Kenya after a long absence and hope it will bring more people to be inspired by Magical Kenya,” said KTB Director David Tanki.

“The year-round service from Brussels Airlines is a significant development for the destination that will boost arrivals throughout all seasons. This comes as we continue to see interest from other airlines from Europe and other continents into Kenya.

Tanki said Europe is a key source market for Kenya’s tourism, ranking second with a 29 per cent market share and contributing 572,352 arrivals last year.

“In 2023, the number of arrivals from Belgium reached 12,960, up from 9,981 in 2022, indicating a growing recognition of Kenya as a desirable destination within Belgian tourism.

“The entry of Brussels Airlines is particularly timely as we expect to increase in Belgian arrivals into Kenya and further strengthen our numbers.”

Since the flights went on sale, 50,000 people have already booked their tickets to visit Nairobi or to fly from Nairobi to Brussels, making the route already a success before the first flight took off this week, the airline’s officials said.

Brussels Airlines connects the European capital with over 90 destinations, 18 of which are in Sub Saharan Africa. The company employs more than 3,400 people and operates 44 aircraft.

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