Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt of Travel News

Posted on October 4th, 2012
Categories: News

In last month’s column I made note of international airlines trying to gain access to fly directly into Mombasa with scheduled service, being denied operating permits by the Kenya Government. Qatar Airways, due to start service to the port city in mid-August from its global hub in Doha, has now indefinitely postponed this service after hitting a brick wall.

Brussels Airlines, which was due to fly a weekly scheduled service from Brussels to Mombasa starting in November has also terminated its plans for the self-same reasons as above. Emirates, who had previously indicated interest in serving Mombasa will now, some say, fly to Zanzibar instead.

What’s going on?

It is not that hard to fathom, really. The obvious culprit, if that is the right word, is Kenya Airways – who more than likely objected to these airlines flying into Mombasa through the normal course of licence applications to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) – without doubt to protect its home turf from more worthy competitors.

Of course, I’m being naïve to the max as ever here.

Short-sighted as this might be, a real reason to protect one’s turf at the coast is perhaps the fact that Ethiopian Airlines, flew in under the radar, so to speak – no one noticed or more likely paid attention to their route application to the KCAA to serve Mombasa and they now have daily flights to and from their hub in Addis Ababa.

I’m reliably told that Ethiopian have made a massive dent in Kenya Airways’ international revenues to and from Mombasa. So good was business that they used large capacity aircraft to operate flights during peak periods, usually 260+ seat Boeing 767-300s.

The knee-jerk reaction to Ethiopian’s success was to stop anyone else from further diluting Kenya Airways’ international revenues, hence Qatar, Brussels Airlines and perhaps Emirates being stonewalled by the KCAA.

These decisions fly in the face of a tourism industry already under serious stress.

Already beleaguered by the global economic slowdown, the global war on terrorism which at times spills over our borders, negative press by ill-informed journalists, a Tourism Minister more intent on being re-elected in next year’s General Election and who from industry insiders is totally out of touch, and a cash-strapped Tourist Board.

Surely turning away new entry international airlines might just be the last straw.

And talking of the last straw…

You probably didn’t know, and to be honest I didn’t either, that the World Tourism Awards Africa gala dinner, was to be held in Nairobi later this month. Here the great and the good of Africa’s tourism industry would be feted with awards as the world’s very best.

A gala evening hosted by Kenya through the Kenya Tourist Board, with all the glitter and glamour and as importantly the kudos Kenya would receive for hosting such an event, was well – all for nought.

It seems at the eleventh hour the powers that be cancelled the event citing a lack of funds, even after the organisers had made considerable concessions. This egg-on-face moment certainly underlines the government’s lack of understanding of what it takes to promote tourism to this country. Budgets mercilessly slashed they might have been – but a showcase event such as this was something that surely should have been included, given the exposure this country would have had around the globe.

Leaving no time to find an alternative African venue, Africa’s winners will now be announced in Singapore. How silly is that!

One final frightening addition to all of the above is the proposal by government to impose VAT (value added tax) on all tourism products and services – which will add another 16% to today’s tourist’s bottom line. The tourism fraternity is obviously lobbying against this, but is anybody in government listening?

Pity the investors and employees of today’s tourism establishments, hounded out of business and jobs, by a government that doesn’t appear interested in its tourism sector.

Many years ago I asked a politician friend why government wasn’t interested in tourism. He said, ‘TCB, my friend, tourists don’t vote; and we are being elected solely to serve our people’ – not thinking for one minute that a whole herd of unemployed waiters were his constituents.

Please go to page 9 and read a letter from a tourist – then get involved in our forum by simply email me at [email protected] Have your say…

Prozac, please, nurse!


To read this month’s Travel News click on the front cover: