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Kenya Airways in tourism boost

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – The local tourism sector has received a shot in the arm following the launch of an initiative by national carrier Kenya Airways that could see more domestic tourists visit various sites in the country.

Kenya Airways (KQ) Chief Operating Officer Bram Steller disclosed to reporters on Monday that the airline had increased frequencies on various regional and local routes such as Mombasa where they have also introduced special fares to encourage more Kenyans and even foreigners to visit the coastal town.

“Until the start of this month, we were flying 37 times a week to Mombasa but now we have upgraded to 53 flights which close to 50 percent more flights. More than half our flights will charge Sh5,550 return exclusive of taxes (Value Added Tax) and one can even buy it on a one way basis,” he enthused.

How long the special offer lasts will however depend on its success, he said.

Mr Steller further revealed that KQ had taken measures such as fleet modernisation and the replacement of the smaller planes that ply these routes with larger ones like Boeing 767-300ER which can accommodate more passengers.

Coupled with the move by hotels to significantly reduce their rates; this initiative is widely expected to fast track the recovery of the tourism and hotel industries which have been reeling from the effects of the post election chaos and global financial crisis.

“The prices of hotels along the coast and the options (of getting there) are there. So we are giving our commitment towards the nation that its people can go on holiday and that as a carrier we will make sure that there’s a quick comeback in occupancy rates and happiness in the coast,” Mr Steller pledged.

Last year, these challenges led to a dip of the total tourist arrivals by 40 percent to close at 1.1 million while charter flight operations and bed occupancies declined by an average of 30 percent and 65 percent respectively.

Mr Steller was not lost to the fact that the recovery of these two key industries would also have a multiplier effect of increased passenger numbers for the airline.

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This will coincide with plans to introduce new weekly flights to Gaborone, Botswana, which increase to 31 the number of African destinations served by the carrier.

“We aim to have a minimum of four flights to any East African destination and even beyond,” he added.

If this plan is successful, it will go a long way in contributing to the airline’s bottom-line, which was badly affected in the year ended March 2009 and which saw it report a net loss of Sh4.1 billion.

At the same time, Mr Steller said KQ has no plans to screen passengers for the Swine Flu virus upon arrival or those who are departing as some of their competitors in other parts of the world have done.

“We have not seen it necessary or prudent to start screening passengers before they go on board. But we are carefully following the world situation on the flu,” he assured.
According to the World Health Organisation, over 13,000 people worldwide have been infected with the H1N1 flu by May with another 95 death cases being reported.

The negative publicity generated by the spread of this virus has seen many a travellers cancel their travel plans for fear of contracting the flu.

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