A government subsidy for European air charter operations brought in 55,000 tourists, earning tourism sector-players Sh3.7 billion.
Tourism secretary Najib Balala said the earnings were 18 times more than Kenya’s investment of Sh200 million paid out to the charter operators as an incentive under the Charter Incentive Progarmme (CIP) where the government injected Sh1 billion.
The programme allows charter flights, among other things, to land for free at Mombasa's Moi International Airport.
Mr Balala said Moi International Airport in Mombasa was now receiving 15 charter flights per week, up from nine last year with future plans under way to open up Ukunda and Malindi airports for direct charter flights.
Speaking when he received 120 tourists from the Netherlands via a TUI chartered plane, Mr Balala said CIP was a win-win situation for Kenya and the charter operators who receive a Sh3,000 cashback for every tourist terminating their journey in Mombasa.
Plans are in the pipeline to allow international planes landing in Ukunda and Malindi airports to enjoy similar incentives.
“This is indeed a major boost to the coastal tourism business and contributes to the success of government charter incentives programme that has been in place for the last two and half years.” said Mr Balala.
The CIP Programme has waived visa charges for children aged below 16 years who accompany their parents.
Return of chartered flights to Mombasa is good news to hotel, tour operators, travel agents and the region as it ignites an economic impetus across all sectors.
The Netherlands is the fourth largest source market from Europe with 22,108 tourists visiting Kenya last year, a 34 per cent rise from 2016’s arrivals that hit 16,489.
European markets which include the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy contribute the highest arrival numbers to Kenya and especially the Kenyan coast. The Coast region remain a popular destination for its white sandy beaches, archeological sites, water sports and the Swahili culture.