Hotels at the Coast have been hit by shortage of international guests following a sharp decline in charter flights from Europe.
Tourism stakeholders expressed fear the numbers could drop further as Edelweiss airline from Switzerland last week confirmed its withdrawal from the Mombasa route from mid next year.
“Tourism is on the decline due to reduced number of charter flights from our traditional source markets. Most of our hotels have low occupancy as international guests are hard to come by,” Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye said.
He said that flights from Europe had dropped to less than 10 a week compared to between 17 and 20 last year. In 2007, charter flights from traditional source markets of Europe to Mombasa hit a record 30 a week.
Mr Ikwaye said this had triggered a decline in bed occupancy to 50 per cent compared to 70 per cent last year.
Hotels in Malindi and Watamu, he said, had occupancy of below 40 per cent while those in the South Coast had 35 per cent occupancy.
Kwale County tourism executive Adam Sheikh called on the national government to open up Moi International Airport to more scheduled flights to offset the impact of fewer charter flights.
Mr Sheikh said Qatar Airways and Condor had been denied permits to fly to Mombasa yet chartered airlines had a tendency of pulling out of the Mombasa route when passenger numbers were low.
“In order to save tourism from further decline, the government should allow more international airlines to operate scheduled flights to Mombasa,” he said. Mr Sheikh also urged Kenya Airways to operate direct flights from some European cities to Mombasa.
Moi International Airport manager Yatich Kangugo said the number of charter flights from Europe to Mombasa had dropped because of the economic crunch in Europe.
“Some airlines have explained to us that due to low number of passengers they cannot increase flights to Mombasa,” he said.