Botched Delta flights to cost Kenya

June 3, 2009
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, June 3 – Tourism sector players have expressed disappointment at the decision by the US government to cancel Delta Air Lines’ maiden flight into Kenya.

Kenya Tourism Federation head of Environment Committee Allan Earnshaw says earnings and efforts to grow the American market will be affected negatively by this move.

“Though we are not completely informed on the situation as it is, the announcement of the cancellation was quite disappointing as it is a high ticket segment for us,” Mr Earnshaw said.

Delta was to launch its maiden flight to the country on Wednesday but pulled out late on Tuesday sighting security concerns by the Department of Homeland Security.

 ‘…due to noted security vulnerabilities in and around Nairobi, and the failure to meet international security standards and appropriate recommended practices established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) at the Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, TSA is currently denying air service by Delta to Nairobi and Monrovia until security standards are met or security threat assessments change,’ a statement from Homeland Security read in part.

The Chief Executive Officer of Hotel Keepers Association Mike Macharia noted that there was no need to panic citing previous travel advisories on the country.

“This is part of a government’s normal procedure that might look bad now but may have negligible effect on our industry,” Mr Macharia said.

He observed that both countries would suffer negative consequences of the cancellations.

“We must not forget that it will also have an effect on the US economy because the decision to fly directly to Africa by Delta is a commercial one,” Mr Macharia said.

Meanwhile the sector is raising concern on the proposed slash to the tourism budgetary allocation saying it will impact the industry.

The Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Tourism Federation Agatha Juma said a budget slash would impede efforts to market the country abroad

“This will result in depressed tourism numbers and equally depressed tourism earnings yet research findings show that there is a return of Sh130 on every shilling spent on destination marketing,” Ms Juma said.

On the other hand economic Kwame Owino said the tourism industry should be private sector driven and reduce reliance on the government.

“Marketing is required definitely. But at the same time to the extent that the industry is driven by private sector marketing should come from private sector support cash,” Mr Owino stated

“Fundamentally, for a country that is struggling with educating its children in primary and secondary school and providing basic health care, government subsidy for tourism is less defensible than other areas.”

Nevertheless, Mr Macharia emphasized that marketing is the government’s responsibility.

“We are not saying the private sector should not spend because each individual company has its own marketing budgets. However the responsibility of the private sector is to come up with a product that can be sold out there and products that can be marketed,” he pointed out.

When approached for comment, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta was non committal on the issue indicating that he had a tough balancing act ahead of him considering all the competing needs.

“We are not talking about unlimited resources and ultimately as much as tourism is a priority we need to look at other sectors too,” Mr Kenyatta said.

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