Leadership, News


In 2019, before COVID-19 rocked glob­al tourism, twelve Euro­pean coun­tries were among the top most vis­it­ed coun­tries in the world. Accord­ing to the Unit­ed Nations World Tourism Orga­ni­za­tion, 89.4 Mil­lion tourists vis­it­ed France in 2019. In the sec­ond posi­tion was Spain with 82.7 Mil­lion Vis­i­tors. The USA came in third with 79.6 Mil­lion Vis­i­tors. Mean­while, 2.05 mil­lion tourists vis­it­ed Kenya in 2019. 

Although Kenya has con­sis­tent­ly ranked among Africa’s tourism pow­er­hous­es, it falls far below the glob­al tourism super­pow­ers like France, Spain, and the USA. Since we are blessed with world-class beach­es, unique wildlife, and tremen­dous weath­er, we def­i­nite­ly have what it takes to quadru­ple our tourist arrivals. But for this to hap­pen, we must, first of all, improve our air­ports because they give tourists their first impres­sion of a country.

Thank­ful­ly, we are on the right track. Last month, the Air­ports Coun­cil Inter­na­tion­al (ACI), award­ed Jomo Keny­at­ta Inter­na­tion­al Air­port (JKIA) in Nairo­bi and Moi Inter­na­tion­al Air­port (MIA) in Mom­basa for their ster­ling cus­tomer ser­vice. Our two largest air­ports won the 2021 Best Air­port by Size and Region in their respec­tive Africa cat­e­gories of 5 – 15 mil­lion pas­sen­gers per year and Under 2 mil­lion pas­sen­gers per year respec­tive­ly. Both air­ports were win­ning this award for the sec­ond year in a row. 

There is how­ev­er a lot of room for improve­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly at Jomo Keny­at­ta Inter­na­tion­al Air­port. Anec­do­tal evi­dence shared on social media and trav­el sites like Tri­pAd­vi­sor sug­gests that trav­el­ers fall prey to rogue air­port per­son­nel who extort mon­ey from them. In the same vein, pas­sen­gers con­tin­ue to suf­fer loss­es in the hands of a known car­tel of rogue porters who osten­si­bly offer under­hand ser­vices to exist at the air­port. Is it not pos­si­ble to man­age and for­mal­ize the exis­tence of porters at the airport?

Kenya recent­ly host­ed the 67th Air­ports Coun­cil Inter­na­tion­al con­fer­ence for Africa. Speak­ing at the event in Mom­basa, Trans­port CS James Macharia not­ed that, “Air­ports must know that air­lines are the biggest clients they have and through air­lines, they have sec­tors like tourism.”

I could add to this that tourists are the largest stake­hold­ers in this equa­tion. They are the ones who board planes and vis­it coun­tries. As such, air­ports must grant tourists secure, com­fort­able treat­ment dur­ing their arrival and departure.

One of these com­fort­able expe­ri­ences extends to taxis that fer­ry tourists from our air­ports. Gone are the days when taxi oper­a­tors used to chaot­i­cal­ly jos­tle for tourists. Regret­tably, Kenya’s air­port author­i­ties con­tin­ue to admit a syn­di­cate of unli­censed taxi oper­a­tors in whose hands pas­sen­gers con­tin­ue to dis­tress­ing­ly suf­fer. If we sin­cere­ly love our coun­try, is it too dif­fi­cult to orga­nize and license tra­di­tion­al and non-tra­di­tion­al taxi operators?

All air­line pas­sen­gers who arrive in Kenya pay a depar­ture tax, which is a tax paid in order to use an airport. 

In the final nine months of 2021, Kenya’s Tourism Pro­mo­tion Fund (TPF) earned Sh2.9 bil­lion from local and inter­na­tion­al pas­sen­gers’ depar­ture tax. Since TPF exists for the sole pur­pose of tourism devel­op­ment, pro­mo­tion, and brand­ing, it should col­lab­o­rate with Kenya Air­ports Author­i­ty to fund mea­sures that ensure a stress-free expe­ri­ence for all tourists land­ing at our airports. 

Even as we improve tourist expe­ri­ences at JKIA, we must invest heav­i­ly in expand­ing air trans­port infra­struc­ture around the coun­try. Indeed, Kenya must take lead in upgrad­ing domes­tic intra-coun­try air­port infra­struc­ture in order to enhance inter­na­tion­al and domes­tic tourism. 

One such air­port that is ripe for urgent major expan­sion is the Malin­di Air­port. I recent­ly met with Ital­ian bil­lion­aire Flavio Bri­a­tore who has busi­ness inter­ests in that coastal town. He reit­er­at­ed that direct flights from Italy to Malin­di will go a long way in boost­ing tourism in Kenya. 

Indeed, our two largest air­ports and the small­er ones like Malin­di Air­port, togeth­er with airstrips and air­dromes are the gate­ways into and with­in our coun­try. We must ensure that all trav­el­ers who enter through this gate­way will have every rea­son to return. That way, we will begin to fol­low in the foot­steps of tourism super­pow­ers like France, Spain, and the USA. Think green, act green!

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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