Tourism stakeholders are optimistic over industry’s recovery following Kenya Airways resumption of service on the Nairobi-New York route on November 29, despite low bookings ahead of the Christmas holiday.
Regionally, last week, Uganda Airlines announced resumption of direct flights from Uganda to Mombasa. The flights, which resumed on December 4, have also lifted prospects of business between the two countries. The flights are scheduled for three frequencies weekly, on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
The route will add value to travellers from Entebbe who no longer have to spend three to four hours connection time in Nairobi.
In a statement, Uganda Airlines Country Manager Peggy Macharia said the one-hour 50-minute trip will target business people who depend on the port of Mombasa as well as tourists to the Coastal holiday destination.
"We are delighted to be relaunching flights to port city of Mombasa in addition to our existing Entebbe – Nairobi flights that resumed in October. Amidst Covid-19, Uganda Airlines commits to keeping passengers safe and healthy, through strict adherence to approved standard operating procedures,” said Ms Macharia.
Kenya Tourism Federation (KFT) chairman Mohammed Hersi said international tourists will play a key role in ensuring tourism sector bounces back from the effects of Covid-19.
“Players in the sector have complied with all health protocols and they are ready to receive tourists from around the world, because domestic visitors alone cannot bring back to life the sector as it was before Covid-19. KQ resuming direct flights to New York will bring confidence and we hope to have more visitors in the first quarter of 2021,” said Mr Hersi.
KQ has offered special discounts to passengers who book their New York flights in December as part of the phased relaunch of routes that had been suspended in March.
Uganda Airlines currently operates the Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Bujumbura, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Mogadishu and Juba routes using Bombadier CRJ-900.
With more airlines resuming international service, players in the tourism sector which depends mostly on travel for its survival are hoping for less government Covid-19 restrictions.
A spot check by The EastAfrican showed most of the beach hotels at Kenya’s Coast are operating at between 40 and 55 percent capacity by local tourists and two percent international visitors compared with pre-Covid time the same time when they had above 80 percent occupancy by local tourism and 25 percent for international tourists.