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Hoteliers now want tourist visa fee waived

By | October 10th 2009

By Philip Mwakio

Stakeholders have asked for a waiver of visa fees for tourists from Europe Union and other key source markets.

They were responding to remarks by Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetang’ula that reduction in tourist visa fees has not translated into increased arrivals.

Wetang’ula is quoted to have told a Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs that a study indicated the reduction in visa fees has not attracted more tourists.

Tourists were paying Sh4,000 ($50). Following the visa fee reduction, they are now paying Sh2,000 ($25) per single entry.

Speaking in Mombasa on Thursday, the stakeholders criticised Wetangula as out of step with efforts to promote Kenya as a choicy tourist destination.

"We are looking at encouraging potential tourists to travel and the reduction in visa fee is just the first step," Chairman Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association Trustee Mr Kuldip Sondhi said.

Sondhi, also a director with the Reef Group of Hotels, termed the visa fee reduction as a purely promotional stint.

"We are optimistic there will be a gradual increase in numbers. By the end of this month, we expect the number of charter flights into Mombasa from Europe to have increased," he said.

Sondhi said as a result of the reduction in visa fees, hotels that signed contracts with tour operators from France and Eastern Europe are set for improved revenues.

The Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast branch chairman, Titus Kangangi said Tourism Minister Najib Balala’s initiative to have visa fee reduction was a well thought move.

"It has been long overdue. We should not expect instant results," Kangangi, General Manager of Sunrise Beach Resort Apartment & Spa said.

The Kenya Association of Tour Operators national chairman, Mr John Cleave said Wetangula ought to realise that the world is in a global recession and the travel industry has also been hit hard.

"The background in the global tourism industry is that there is slowed growth. But the reduced cost in visa fees has increased volumes of tourist arrivals and we regard this as beneficial to the industry," Cleave said.

Cleave added that Wetangula could be taking on a narrow view based only on income in his Foreign Office.

"After the reduction, we are not keen on going back to the $50 but want to completely

do away with the visa fees altogether," Cleave said.

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