TIFF

Tourism players worried over Kenya–UK travel restrictions

Passenger flights between the two countries are suspended effective Friday

In Summary

•Pre-Covid, UK was the second top international market source with 181,484 arrivals in 2019.

•By UK including Kenya in the "red list", all hopes of a summer restart of UK tourists were dashed, KAHC chief executive Mike Macharia says.

British tourists queue to check out at Moi International Airport in Mombasa, in a past visit/FILE
British tourists queue to check out at Moi International Airport in Mombasa, in a past visit/FILE

The travel restrictions between Kenya and the UK have is worrying the local tourism sector which has hit rock bottom rock in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last Friday, the UK placed Kenya on its ‘Red List’, saying it had established  the lethal South African coronavirus variant is spreading locally, with the country having a high rate of Covid-19 infections.

This effectively bans Kenyans or anybody transiting through Kenyan airports from setting foot in the UK starting  April 9, save for residents who have to undergo mandatory quarantine at a government listed facility.

By UK including Kenya in the "red list", all hopes of a summer restart of UK tourists were dashed. We hope this will be resolved soon
 KAHC chief executive Mike Macharia

This did not go well with Kenya which on Saturday retaliated, banning visitors from the UK.

The two countries have also placed bans on each others flight.

Kenya Airways a key carrier on the route has  has since suspended flights to the United Kingdom effective Friday, April 9, 2021.

“The suspension is due to the directive issued by the government of Kenya suspending all the flights from the UK effective midnight April 9, 2021,” KQ management said.

The UK being a traditional international tourism source market for Kenya, local industry players are worried this could further hurt the sector's post Covid-19 recovery.

“This is highly regrettable and we hope that both UK and Kenya are able to sit and agree on way forward. As long as all travelers get the test anything else is complicating an already dire situation,” Kenya Tourism Federation chairman, Mohammed Hersi, told the Staron Tuesday.

The Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers(KAHC) has equally expressed concerns noting the move will hurt the industry, which last year lost about Sh130.9 billion in potential revenues as a result of the pandemic.

According to Tourism CS Najib Balal, Covid-19 wiped out up to 80 per cent of earnings for the sector as global travel and local conferences remain restrained.

“It will definitely affect tourism since most travelers plan in advance. By UK including Kenya in the 'Red List', all hopes of a summer restart of UK tourists were dashed. We hope this will be resolved soon,KAHC chief executive Mike Macharia told the Star.

Pre-Covid, UK was the second top international market source with 181,484 arrivals in 2019, a year that saw the country record the highest international numbers ever, at 2,048, 834.

US led with 245,437 followed by regional markets of Uganda and Tanzania with 223, 010 and 193,740 visitors, respectively, according to Tourism Research Institute( TRI) data.

Immediately after resumption of international flights in August last year, after a six-month hiatus following a suspension in March, the UK had the second most visitors to Kenya recorded at 2,469 in that month.

Visitors from the US were 2,768 as per TRI data, a time when the global travel industry was on its knees on reduced travel and restrictions by countries to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Passengers from the UK will be required to produce negative Covid-19 certificates and valid Covid-19 vaccine certifications.

All UK government officials and diplomats must have a valid Covid-19 vaccination certificate and a valid Covid-19 negative PCR test certificate to enter Kenya,” Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said, with strict quarantine measures in place at the cost of the passenger.

Only cargo flights are exempted from the ban by Kenya, but crew members must  present both a vaccination certificate and a negative PCR certificate.