Tourism players step up push for open skies policy

Mombasa Coast Tourism Association Chairman Mohammed Hersi. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

Players in the tourism industry have asked the government to implement the open skies policy to ensure the tourism hubs attract more international airlines.

The industry players said they are looking to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta who is expected to tour the Coast region, to deliberate on the importance of implementing the open sky policy to revive the international tourism segment that dwindled at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic killed tourism, the Coast region’s main lifeline leaving hundreds jobless and hotels grappling with low occupancy levels, forcing hoteliers who entirely depended on foreign markets to change strategy and start wooing local tourists.

President Kenyatta is expected to tour the Coast region this month to launch his legacy projects including the Sh4.5 billion 457-metre Makupa Bridge in Mombasa — meant to position the city as an island— Sh4.9 billion Ronald Ngala Utalii College in Kilifi county and other major development projects.

“We have a problem and a challenge, international airlines that are trying to get licences to fly to Mombasa are being stopped ostensibly to protect our national carrier. There is a lot of focus on Mombasa because the President is coming to launch his projects. Let’s lobby on the open skies policy,” said Pollman’s Tours and Safaris Director, Mohammed Hersi.

Mr Hersi said Mombasa should not play second fiddle to Nairobi because it is the gateway to East Africa.

However, Mr Hersi said the recent pronouncement by Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia that the government will rethink the open skies policy is a major boost.

Two weeks ago, Mr Macharia said to position Mombasa globally, Kenya plans to open the sky for more carriers to fly direct to Mombasa to boost tourism which is struggling from the effects of Covid-19.

“President Kenyatta will officially open key infrastructure projects in Mombasa, we shall embark on a series of campaigns to position Mombasa as an Island tourist town,” said the CS.

Some of the airline companies which are willing to start flying to Mombasa include Turkish, Qatar and Ethiopian Airlines.

“Those airlines including KLM are eager to fly directly to Mombasa. Coast has a golden opportunity because a lot of infrastructure projects are being done in Mombasa positioning our city globally but with no airlines landing then it is pretty useless at this crucial moment,” said Mr Hersi.

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