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Massive exodus of Italian tourists from Coast

By Philip Mwakio | March 6th 2020

Italian Neos plane touches the ground at Moi International Airport in Mombasa. More that 700 Italians left Kenya following the global outbreak of Conoravirus. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

An estimated 600 Italian tourists jetted out of Mombasa yesterday, a week after they landed in the country, industry stakeholders said yesterday.

The Standard can report that three chartered aircraft operated by Neos Charter Company left Mombasa, between 7 am and 11 am, yesterday full of tourists.

Reports indicate that some of the tourists cut short their holiday, fearing that the ban on flights between Kenya and Milan over the coronavirus could extend past the end of their holiday.

The government has issued a raft of measures aimed at ensuring that Kenya remains safe from coronavirus that is ravaging most parts of the world.

Italy, one of Kenya's biggest source markets for tourists, with two charter planes landing in Mombasa every week, is among the countries hardest hit by the epidemic.

Over 70 per cent of tourists who visit Malindi and Watamu are from Italy. The number of visitors from Italy has over the years declined from a peak of 100,000 to 13,000 last year.

Last Sunday, the Italian government reported a 50 per cent surge in coronavirus cases and has already ordered schools, colleges and universities closed.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe announced that flights from northern Italy, especially Verona and Milan, were suspended effective March 3.

A copy of a flight manifest prepared by Kenya Aerotech, ground handling agents for Neos, confirmed that Moi International Airport, Mombasa, was due yesterday to receive three aircraft operated by Neos.

The manifest indicated that all the chartered planes that left Mombasa yesterday were headed to Verona, Italy. Airport officials said each plane left with over 200 tourists aboard.

We have also established that Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala is scheduled to meet tourism stakeholders to assesses the impact of the virus on the sector.

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