Tourism stakeholders at the Coast are upbeat that 2019 will a good year in terms of international visitors after the arrival of inaugural Qatar-Mombasa direct flight.
Qatar, a peninsular Arabian Gulf country, launched its first-ever direct flight from its Capital Doha to Mombasa, Kenya second big city after Nairobi.
The airline, which will be operating an Airbus A320 aircraft to Mombasa, which features 12 Business Class seats and 120 seats in Economy Class, will be making four flights to the region every week.
The 150-passenger capacity plane will be coming to Moi International Airport Mombasa on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, according to the Kenya Tourism Board.
Speaking during the arrival of Qatar Airways direct inaugural flight to Moi International Airport Mombasa, KTB Chief Executive Officer Dr Betty Radier said the direct flight was an endorsement of the destination Mombasa.
“This is good news for the sector and together with the private sector, KTB will look into ways of partnering with Qatar Airways as well as other aircrafts to increase passenger numbers into the route,” she said.
According to Radier, with Qatar inaugural flight to Mombasa, Kenya’s coast is set to receive visitors mainly from her key European tourist source markets such as Italy, Germany, UK, and France.
The US is also key to this airline and other markets include Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria.
Mombasa Deputy Governor Dr William Kingi, who was also present to receive the guests on board the flight said the prospects for Mombasa tourism sector are good.
“The new flight heralds a new chapter for the leisure and business sector. It opens new possibilities for the tourism sector and it is a vote of confidence for Mombasa, especially coming on the heels of the resumption of charter flights from Belgium, Netherlands and Poland,” said Kingi.
Mohammed Hersi, the chairperson of the Kenya Tourists Federation, said they are delighted as Mombasa residents to receive the Qatar Airways.
“It has been long. We started the process four years ago. We are happy that Qatar Airways will be opening and connecting Mombasa to over 120 cities of the world,” he said.
According to data from Kenya Airports Authority, Mombasa receives about 300,000 visitors against the capacity of over two million passengers.
Jimmy Kibati, the General Manager Marketing at Kenya Airports Authority, said the Mombasa Airport used to receive only three scheduled flights; Rwanda Air, Turkish Airline and Ethiopia Airline.
He said with coming of the Qatar Airways and additional charter flights, they are hopeful the number of arrivals will increase gradually.
Mombasa is currently receiving 15 charter flights after the resumption of Tui Travel charters from Belgium, Poland and Netherlands in the last two months.
Kenya is now fighting for Tui Travel to also relaunch its UK charter flights to Mombasa by next year.
Tui Travel, one of the biggest travel group in the world had pulled out of Mombasa in 2014 after the increased cases of terror attacks at the Coast.
According to KTB, 2018 has been good for the sector, compared to last year, which was a year of the general election.
For the past nine months, the tourism sector has recorded 7.8 per cent growth in arrivals of by air and sea for the period indicating 777,791 arrivals up from 723,174 visitors the same period in 2017.