- Mr. Macharia said the Kenyan government had not banned flights from any country landing in its country.
- Investors in the tourism industry have called on the government to adopt a policy that allows flights to land at Moi airport directly without restrictions.
- The chairman of the tourism investment union said business at the airport could be jeopardized if flights were to take off and land directly.
Kenyan Transport Minister James Macharia has denied any diplomatic dispute with Tanzania. He was responding to a statement from the African Union that Tanzania will not allow Kenya Airways flights to travel from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, and Zanzibar from August 1.
Mr. Macharia said the Kenyan government had not banned flights from any country landing in its country. Mr. Macharia was speaking at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after the country opened its airspace for international flights.
“We have not banned any country from entering Kenya. We have not closed our airspace, what we have done is to impose a quarantine measure on some countries based on the assessment of the epidemic,” Mr. Macharia said.
Mr. Macharia said he had spoken to his Tanzanian counterpart, Isack Kamwelwe, about the relationship between the two countries, and that Tanzania’s order would be reviewed soon.
“Kenya has not banned flights from Tanzania. Kenya has not banned travelers from Tanzania. What we have done is set certain health rules when people arrive from different countries,” Mr. Macharia said.
Mr. Macharia added that Kenyan airlines would be allowed to enter Tanzanian airspace after an agreement was reached. In addition, Mr. Macharia added that the list of 19 countries is still under review and will continue to change depending on how countries continue to respond to the spread of the coronavirus in the border areas.
Earlier, Tanzania banned Kenya Airways from operating the country indefinitely. A statement issued by the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) states that the country has revoked the approval of Kenya Airways to resume international flights in Tanzania in response to Kenya’s decision not to include it in the list.
Calls on the Government to Formulate Policy
Investors in the tourism industry have called on the government to adopt a policy that allows flights to land at Moi airport directly without restrictions. The investors said the policies would help revive the tourism industry, which continues to deteriorate, following the coronavirus catastrophe.
However, they emphasized that direct flights to the airport will help boost many sectors including tourism, trade, and transport, thus creating jobs among Kenyans.
“Most people prefer transportation without challenges, the government should adopt a policy that allows flights to land and take off at Moi Airport directly without restrictions,” Mr. Husnain Noorani said in an interview.
Speaking on behalf of the tourism industry, investors, and luxury hotel owners, Mr. Noorani called on the government to ensure the country’s tourism board is funded to make the Kenyan market as a special tourist destination in the world.
He said if the government accepts the policy, more planes will take off and land at Moi International Airport and boost transportation, tourism, and trade.
Protecting Coastal Tourism
For his part, the chairman of the tourism investment union, Mr. Ishpal Oberoi, said business at the airport could be jeopardized if flights were to take off and land directly. He said:
“If we want to promote the Coast region as a tourist market, we must set ambitious strategies including ensuring that planes land and take off without hindrance. International flights from Europe, America, and even Asia can bring visitors.”
Mr. Oberoi, who is also the director of the popular tourist transport company Kuldip, said the industry had begun to improve, especially in Diani, Kilifi, and Maasai Mara. However, he said there was hope for tourism to improve in Mombasa County during the August holidays.
But Minister for Tourism and Wildlife, Mr. Najib Balala, said the government would put in place strategies to ensure international flights land at the airport. In an interview last week, Mr. Balala said:
“Obviously the tourism economy is deteriorating in the world and everyone is scared. In Europe, for example, there are no flights to the United States because of concerns about contracting the virus. We are making plans for the airport to have international flights. We have Rwanda Air, Turkish Airways, Qatar Airways, and Ethiopian Airways but we want other airlines to transport visitors to Mombasa to boost the industry.”
However, he urged Kenyans to boost local tourism in order to revive the economy.