Tourism players are anticipating a rise in visitor numbers from the American market as plans for Kenya Airways direct flights to New York later this year gather steam.
On Thursday, the airline started selling tickets for the inaugural flight, which is scheduled to take off on October 28.
The national carrier would become the first airline from East Africa to introduce daily flights from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to John F Kennedy International Airport. The Kenya Tourism Board chief executive Betty Radier said holidaymakers visiting the country from America would increase in the wake of KQ’s direct flights to the US.
“The US is our top source market and therefore, Kenya Airways’ daily flights to New York would bring to the country more American tourists,” said told Smart Company.
According to figures from KTB, tourist arrivals from the US grew by 16.3 per cent to 95,771 between January and October last year up from 82,363 visitors in the same period in 2016.
Ms Radier attributed the arrivals growth to KTB marketing campaigns in the US market, through online sales promotion, online consumer advertising supported by publicity initiatives, road shows and participation or hosting key travel events.
She said the marketing agency was organising a forum for engaging Destination Management Companies serving the US and Canada with a view to identifying priority products for promoting the two markets.
Kenya, she said, would also sponsor the United States Tour Operators event slated for November in a bid to build partnerships with American tourism players.
The Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) chairman Mohamed Hersi said the flights would enable the country receive more American wildlife enthusiasts.
“Majority of the tourists from the US market visit Kenya for safari. Therefore the direct flights will bring more wildlife lovers to our parks such as Maasai Mara National Reserve and Amboseli National Park and Tsavo,” he said.
Mr Hersi, who is also the Sun Africa Hotels chief executive officer, said the daily flights between Nairobi and New York would also enable the country receive more Canadian tourists.
The KTF official said apart from tourism, the US flights would as well boost market for local flowers as and other products from the country.
The Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye also applauded the flights, saying they would uplift efforts by the government and the private sector to revive the industry.
READ: KQ applies to include Air France in KLM deal
“As a result of the peace enjoyed in the country, the marketing by KTB in both traditional and emerging markets and the US flights, we expect tourism to recover this year,” he added.
The KAHC official called on the government to open up Moi International Airport to more international airlines in a bid to boost international tourist arrivals.
Mr Ikwaye said the charter flights between Europe and Mombasa cannot sustain tourism at the Coast since the airlines operation depend on passenger demand.
“It is saddening that despite Moi Airport being the second largest airport, it handles mainly domestic flights, charter flights and a few international scheduled flights,” he said.
Mr Ikwaye said there was need for the government to authorise more airlines from Europe and Asia to introduce scheduled flights to Mombasa for tourism to recover.
Currently, only two regional airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and RwandAir operate scheduled flights to Mombasa from Addis Ababa and Kigali respectively.
Turkish Airlines is the only airline from Europe operating scheduled flights between Istanbul and Mombasa.
Local airlines operating flights between Nairobi and Mombasa include Kenya Airways, Jambojet, Fly540, Skyward Express and Fly SAX.