NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 15 – Israel’s Ambassador to Kenya, Gil Haskel, says they are working to restore direct flights between Tel Aviv and Nairobi before the end of the year.
“I very much hope to be able to declare that 2013 will be the year when we resume direct flights between Nairobi and Tel Aviv,” Haskel said.
The flights were stopped 10 years ago by the Israeli government due to what they cited as security lapses at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The ambassador announced on Tuesday that Israel is now satisfied with the security arrangements put in place by the Kenyan government at the airport.
“There were very severe security threats on Israeli flights landing here in Kenya and obviously if we want to resume them we believe that these threats are no longer there.”
The flights would see Kenya’s tourism numbers boosted by 50,000 per annum by reducing flight times by five hours. There are currently less than 10,000 Israelis who visit Kenya every year.
“It will be huge for mutual and bi-lateral tourism. We know there is a very big interest in Kenyan pilgrimage to Israel and there is a very big interest in Israeli tourism into Kenya.”
“Up until 10 years ago we had direct flights and you had way more than 50,000 Israeli tourists that came to Kenya for beach and safari tourism. Unfortunately the flights nowadays are too long.”
The Israeli Embassy has also revealed plans to set up a chamber of commerce comprising of representatives from both countries.
“We plan to establish in the first quarter of this year an Israeli-Kenyan chamber of commerce that will be seated here in Nairobi and will be co-chaired by prominent Israeli and Kenyan business leaders.”
“Through this chamber we intend to bring delegations of investors from Israel to Kenya and to send delegations from Kenya to Israel in order to expose both markets to one another.”
Haskel said his country would engage the Kenyan government following the March 4 general elections to see if they can find away to shield Israeli investors from double taxation.
“This will make Israeli companies’ lives much easier when opening shop here in Kenya because that way they don’t have to pay taxes twice to the Kenyan government and the Israeli government.”
The chamber, Haskel was optimistic, would help to equalise the trade balance between the two countries with Israel currently benefitting more from its sale of Agro-technology.
“The trade balance is far from its potential. We are talking today of roughly USD 100 million in bi-lateral trade.”