Connectivity is key to the success of any destination .
Mombasa and Kenya coast has traditionally been a charter destination.
At one time during our peak times Mombasa was attracting 42 charters a week from continental Europe. This was in 2007 which is considered the most successful year for coast tourism then infamous post violence (PEV ) election happened and we lost everything. While we were fighting hard to regain lost grounds terrorism came calling and non essential travel advisory was imposed on . Mombasa and Kenya coast suffered even more. Charters at one point reduced to less than 5 a week.
It has never been the same again .
Currently charters hardly hit 10 flights a week with NONE from UK a key source of tourists for Mombasa and Kenya coast.
Charters means that an investor has to commit huge funds and many destinations get support from destination governments . It happens in Egypt, Tunisia etc and many other destination that are in recovery mode. Not many investors are keen to do that besides the charters business is equally a shrinking market. Many younger holidaymakers prefer scheduled flights .
We were left with no option but to fight for open sky policy . Were it not for Turkish Airlines , Ethiopian and to some extent Rwandair , Mombasa and Kenya coast would have been dead and buried .
Of course our national carrier KQ still remains the single largest carrier bringing in numbers to the coast but they all must transit through Nairobi . This is done ostensibly to support and build JKIA as a hub pushing Mombasa to a lesser position yet we have space close to 35+ charters that was left behind when the charters stopped coming in . It also means that the 30,000 beds in our resorts remain empty save for the seasonal domestic market and the conference segment . It also means Mombasa and Kenya coast will not see the full benefits of a thriving tourism industry.
We have been pleading with KQ to fly direct into Mombasa from London and direct to Malindi from Milan even if it was just once or twice a week. They have clearly told us that it makes no business sense for them hence they’ll continue to transit through Nairobi which means that many potential tourists would opt to avoid Mombasa and Kenya coast .
Ethiopian which is connecting Mombasa to over 120 cities around the world has been quite a saviour and the second flight is music to our ears. Turkish Airlines operating from the heart of Europe fly 5 times a week to Mombasa and we cannot wait for more frequency. Rwandair is also flying in 3 times a week Kigali Mombasa Dubai which has also been a success. It means that Ethiopian 14 Turkish 5 and Rwandair 3 which comes to 22 flights a week are giving 50% of what we lost with the charters .
Turkish alone flies to no less than 20 cities across Germany which means any German tourist can come to Kenya coast with ease. When will KQ ever fly to 20 cities in Germany? Ethiopian has just added Manchester to its cities which means anyone from. Manchester can visit Mombasa. When will KQ ever fly to Manchester even it was from Nairobi ?
What pains me is our business editors always insisting that KQ is going to suffer , how will KQ suffer when you don’t serve a particular route , how do you loose something you’ve never had in the first place ? Why would anyone deny Mombasa and Kenya coast hotels the much needed guests by denying other airlines the right to fly to Mombasa.
We denied Ethiopian a second flight for a long time and we are now also insisting that Ethiopian should also be given a chance to fly into Malindi from Italy since the Italian market is asking for it and there is no iota of a chance of KQ doing it anytime soon.
We are not the first ones to allow other Airlines to our second or third cities. Durban and Cape Town all receive direct flights including our own KQ flying direct to Cape Town from Nairobi . Why would KQ or GOK get upset or protective when it comes to Mombasa while they fly to Cape Town whivh is equivalent to Mombasa in addition to Joburg.
In aviation world , every country must reciprocate when they get flying rights to a destination . Ethiopian has given carte blanche to KQ to fly to any city in Ethiopia.
I know that KQ is busy restructuring and I have no doubt in my mind that under the able leadership of Michael Joseph and his team KQ will soar again. For KQ to soar and thrive it does not mean that we block other airlines from Mombasa and Kenya coast that is still struggling to fill the gap that was left behind by the charters. We are not even halfway yet .
Denying other airlines is blind protection because a potential tourist not able to fly direct into Mombasa will simply opt for Zanzibar or Sharm El Sheikh afterall we ain’t alone . Travellers always avoid switching once they get to destination. Immigration and customs in Nbi plus that long walk to cross ovet to thr domestic terminal is not helping matters.
You only thrive when challenged , baby sitting KQ will not help our national carrier. Anyone attempting to do so is also killing Mombasa and Kenya coast as a destination. We will not allow that to happen.
Can we now get Qatar to fly into Mombasa . We denied them in 2010 and they happily opted for Zanzibar .
Bottom line we aint the only beach destination. The world is not short of options.
As always I choose to remain an optimsit that there is plenty out there . Africa is poorly connected when it comes to air travel hence there is enough to go round. We must vanquish this scarcity mentality that looks like a permanent tenant in the minds of business editors and policy makers.
Kenya Tourism Federation