Travel alerts on Kenya unfairly in place - Balala

The US and UK are among countries that have recently imposed restrictions.

In Summary

•The Tourism and Wildlife CS has called for eased travel rules.

•Kenya's tourism sector expected to bounce-back in 2023 after low numbers last year and this year, occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Visitors arrive at the JKIA onboard an Air India plane which had re-launched flights to Nairobi after 10 years absence/HANDOUT
Visitors arrive at the JKIA onboard an Air India plane which had re-launched flights to Nairobi after 10 years absence/HANDOUT

Kenya has faulted travel restrictions and alerts by some western countries as it aggressively moves to open new market new tourism markets while growing traditional sources.

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala termed actions such as the recent Covid-19 red-listing of Kenya by the UK and continued travel alerts by the US as unnecessary.

“The travel regime where countries are placed on red, amber, green, is not helping,” Balala said.

The mandatory quarantine of up to 14 days in some cases, is also putting travellers under lock-down he said, calling for ease of movement especially for persons with double vaccination and those that have taken PCR tests.

The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), is moving to market various destinations and tourism sites to new markets with a keen eye on Eastern Europe.

These include Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

Balala spoke virtually at this year's Magical Kenya Travel Expo which attracted over 200 buyers from more than 40 countries who market Kenya as a tourist destination.

They include tour operators, travel agents and destination agencies from source markets in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.

“Magical Kenya is ready to reignite the magic of travel. Magical Kenya Travel Expo is the beginning of what we perceive to be a great year ahead. It is the beginning of travel. It is a signal that Kenya is ready and is waiting for all of you to join us,” KTB chief executive Betty Radier said.

In August, the US which is Kenya's leading international tourism source market slapped Kenya with a level three Covid travel alert, dealing a blow to the tourism sector.

It has also been warning its citizens to avoid non-essential travel.

“Reconsider travel to Kenya due to Covid-19.  Exercise increased caution in Kenya due to crime, terrorism, health issues, and kidnapping.  Some areas have increased risk,” it says in the current alert, through the US embassy in Nairobi.

The UK had also placed Kenya on the red-list before moving it to the Amber List last month, easing travel.

The two countries account for over 20 per cent of travel to Kenya.

“The number of cases( Covid-19) in Kenya is lower than some of these countries,” Balala noted, citing double standards when it comes to alerts on African countries, mainly terrorism.

“When the western countries experience attacks, we are told to stand in solidarity but when it happens here, we are a risk, that is double standard. We are not a risk, we are country at peace,” the CS said.

Kenya is banking on the US market in post-Covid recovery, expected in 2023.

This year, Kenya received 305,635 international arrivals in the period between January and June, according to recent data by the Tourism Research Institute (TRI).

“We are encouraged by the numbers although we are not there yet. Because this is only a fifth of the two million visitors we received in 2019. But we understand this is because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lock-downs that ensued which affected the travel trends this year,” Balala noted.

Of the 305,635 arrivals, 94,241came to visit family and friends, 92,828 for Meetings,Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) purposes, 87,629 for holiday, 15,811 were on transit, 8,637 for education, 3,592 for medical purposes, 1,722 for religious purposes, and 1,175 for sports.

The top five source markets were US (49,178), Uganda (31,418), Tanzania (31,291), China (18,069), and United Kingdom (16,264).

The major points of entry in terms of air transport are Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (218,992), Moi International Airport, Mombasa (16,054), and Wilson Airport(1,305).

Other points of entry constituted 69,284 arrivals.