Economy

Balala raises alarm as e-visa issuance hitch hits a month

TOURISMSECTOR

Tourism Cabinet secretary Najib Balala during the release of the tourism sector performance 2021 report and projections for 2022, at the Nairobi Serena Hotel yesterday. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

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Summary

  • The Tourism ministry has raised concerns over increasing delays in e-visa processing, citing it as a major hindrance to rising tourist numbers as it seeks new markets in Russia and Latin America.
  • Tourism Cabinet secretary Najib Balala says his ministry has received complaints from travellers visiting Kenya, claiming that the authorisation process takes a month.

The Tourism ministry has raised concerns over increasing delays in e-visa processing, citing it as a major hindrance to rising tourist numbers as it seeks new markets in Russia and Latin America.

Tourism Cabinet secretary Najib Balala says his ministry has received complaints from travellers visiting Kenya, claiming that the authorisation process takes a month.

Mr Balala said the visa delays and inefficiencies at the airport discourage visitors, as the ministry races to increase the tourist arrivals to more than one million this year from 870,465 in 2021.

“We are receiving a lot of complaints on e-visa. The efficiency of getting an e-visa to get into the country has become a problem in the last year. Before it could take minutes, but now it can take even a month and that has been a major complaint we are receiving from visitors coming into the country,’’ he said during the release of the annual tourism sector performance report 2021 on Wednesday.

Kenya shifted from a manual to an online visa system on January 1, 2021, in line with a policy to digitise service delivery and increase revenue collection.

According to the immigration office, applicants are to receive an approved visa “in a few business days provided there are no issues”.

The discontent directed to the Immigration Department comes as the ministry eyes untapped tourism sources in eastern and northern Europe and Latin America, off the traditional markets such as the US and the UK.

“We are going to new markets. We have seen potential markets even though the numbers are small. We have seen visitors from Slovakia, Romania and Poland. All of Eastern Europe is opening up,” he said.

“Russia is another big market, which we are yet to access. The biggest challenge with Russia is accessibility. We are discussing with Kenya Airways to go to Moscow but they have their own challenges, they have not come back to us.”

Other markets that are seen growing include France, Sweden, Poland, Mexico, Israel, Iran, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands and Belgium.

The industry recorded Sh146.51 billion earnings in 2021 compared to Sh88.56 billion in 2020. Tourist arrivals through airports and border points also increased by 53.3 percent to 870,465 from 567,848 during the period.

Kenya is yet to reach Sh163.6 billion earnings and 2.04 million tourists registered in 2019.

Mr Balala projects visitor arrivals to hit about 1,027,151 while revenue gain to Sh172.89 billion.

Passenger flights are expected to increase to 70,193 from 59,486 in 2021.