Kenya’s two biggest airports recorded a noticeable decline in visitor arrivals as the country’s tourism sector wallows in a prolonged slump. The depression in tourism is likely to extend well into 2015.
Most significantly, the downward trend started around April 2014 when western countries began issuing travel advisories due to fears over the security of their citizens.
Mombasa is visibly more affected by the tourism slump. Moi International Airport at Mombasa currently has fewer charter flights bringing in tourists from Europe. Though German leisure carrier Condor says it will maintain and possibly increase its flights, other European carriers such as Neos and Meridiana (Air Italy) have drastically cut down flights in the past year.
British leisure carrier Thomson Airways and Swiss airline Edelweiss terminated their flights to Mombasa in 2014. Thomson Airways was reacting to a UK travel advisory though some observers read political motives due to the uncertain relationship between the UK government and Kenya under the President Uhuru Kenyatta administration. Edelweiss cited poor loads on the Zurich – Mombasa route.
As Kenya struggles to resuscitate the tourism industry, it is worth noting that the sector was in trouble long before travel advisories. These are the reasons why:
- Kenya’s tourism product is stale. The tourist of today has different tastes from the tourist of the 1970s.
- Poor infrastructure. Roads, electricity, water supply and public transport are in a deplorable state.
- Decline in the number of wild animals seen in national parks. In some cases, tourists encounter livestock instead of wildlife.
- High costs: Tourists complain that the prices of goods and services in Kenya are much higher than in comparable destinations.
- Municipal services: Beaches and streets need to be swept clean of garbage.
- Overzealous policing: Tourists getting arrested at a roadblock for leaving their passports at their hotel.
- Harassment by curio vendors, beach boys, call girls and street families all of whom see tourists as walking cash machines.