Poor traffic management at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport(JKIA) and the Standard Gauge Railway(SGR)cargo services are hurting tourism in Nairobi and Mombasa, according to industry players.
The major concern at JKIA is the exit and entry sections for international tourists which are said to be poorly manned.
There are 16 entry points and two exits which have proved to be tedious for tourists leaving the country, something those in the sector say is likely to influence their decision when planning to revisit the country.
Yesterday, the Kenya Tourism Federation(KTF) called for a well streamlined exit and entry system at the international facility, which handles more than 70 per cent of all arrivals by air.
In the year to June, total arrivals at JKIA were 633,731 with the US being the top international market source with 110,668 tourists, data from the Tourism Research Institute(TRI) shows.
The total number of international visitors through all points of entry in the first half year of 2019 was 921,090, a slight drop compared to 927,797 same period in 2018.
“We are getting the traffic, people are booking Kenya so we need to be ready for them. You cannot have sixteen entries and only two exits. This is a big challenge which needs to be addressed,” KTF Chairman Mohammed Hersi told the Star on phone.
Other key international markets include the United Kingdom,India, China, France, Germany and Italy. There is also a sizable number of traffic from parts of Africa mainly South Africa, and Nigeria.
JKIA has also been on the spot over poor standards of its amenities and congested waiting bays.
Last Thursday,Kenya Airways CEO Sebastian Mikosz said despite the country’s pride of being a regional aviation hub, JKIA remains below international standards.
“I don’t understand why people are comfortable with JKIA in the current status,” Mikosz said in an exclusive interview with the Star.
In Mombasa, Cargo haulage by SGR has hit hard local freight and transit businesses, with spiraling effects being felt by the local hotel and tourism industry.
At least 20 Container Freight Stations(CFSs) are closing business especially with the government’s push for mandatory evacuation of Nairobi bound cargo via the SGR. At least 3,500 people have lost their jobs.
The Kenya Association of Hotel keepers and Caterers(KAHC) said the large number of regional business tourists who flocked Mombasa for port related business has dwindled.
According to KAHC executive officer Sam Ikwaye, 60 per cent of people visiting Mombasa from upcountry and the region are there on port related business .
Majority are from Uganda , Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo who flocked the coastal town for cargo clearance and collection.
Kenya received 103,177 visitors from Uganda between January and June, making it the second largest tourism source after the US.
During the period, traffic from Tanzania which was the third largest source, dipped by 14 per cent to 92,340 from 107,411 same period last year. Visitors from Rwanda were 18,553, Burundi(13,577) and DR Congo(10,438).
“If we dont have Uganda, Tanzania and Rwandan visitors coming to Mombasa for port related issues, many business including hotels and lodgings will be affected, this is already being felt now,” said Ikwaye.
He said with the SGR moving every thing to Nairobi, there is seeing a slow down in tourism related businesses.
Separately, industry players want the Mombasa-Malindi Highway expanded to ease traffic and ensure safe movement of Malindi bound tourists who land at the Moi International Airport (MIA) in Mombasa, a distance of about 115 kilometres.
“In the long run we want Malindi airport sorted (expanded) to allow direct international flights,” Hersi said.
The two tourism and hotels umbrella bodies are however optimistic of a good performance in the sector owing to political stability and aggressive marketing campaigns, mainly on the country’s beach and safari products.
Hotels in Mombasa and Diani(beach destinations) are currently 70 per cent booked on average, a slight drop from 80-100 per cent during the August holiday.
“We hope after October going into November and the long December holidays we are gong to be busy again,” Ikwaye said.
KTF has projected a 20 per cent overall growth on numbers this year from the record 2,025,206 reported in 2018, the first time Kenya hit the two million mark.
This is expected to be boosted by the growing regional aviation industry which saw the entry of Uganda Airlines last month.
“We are very bullish and optimistic. Bookings are looking good all the way to February next year,” Hersi said.
Tourism CS Najib Balala had last month projected a 10 per cent growth putting this year’s expected arrivals at about 2.2 million.