Airlines and tourism in Kenya are witnessing a surge in bookings this summer despite a steady rise in cases of Covid-19 that pose a threat to the travel industry.
Airlines and hoteliers are worried that the rising number of cases is likely to scare away tourists. They said countries such as Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda which are not making their Covid-19 numbers public and hence may attract more visitors.
Countries like the US use the prevalence of Covid-19 numbers to issue travel advisories to their citizens, warning them against visiting certain nations.
The Covid-19 cases in Kenya have been steadily climbing in the last one month with the positivity rate now hitting a high of 9.9 percent from a low of 0.05 in late April.
“The rising numbers may create fears for passengers who would want to visit,” said an official who requested anonymity.
However, the rising cases have not dampened tourism numbers yet, with airlines saying the season still looks promising.
Some airlines are already fully booked for summer on the tourist circuits of Maasai Mara, Laikipia, Amboseli and Samburu on the back of high demand from international tourists.
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Safarilink chief executive officer Alex Avedi said the business is looking good for them this summer with high bookings being recorded.
“We are fully booked for summer, it is a good season for the industry,” said Mr Avedi in an interview with the Shipping & Logistics.
The summer period in Kenya, which normally starts around June and extends all the way to August, normally records higher bookings from international tourists. However, the last two years have not been good for the sector owing to Covid-19 restrictions that discouraged people from traveling.
The expected high number of visitors will work in favor of local airlines who are looking at connecting passengers to their final destinations once they arrive at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
A good number of countries across the world have eased the Covid-19 mandate as the world now learns to live with the virus that has been around since late 2019.
The latest country to ease the Covid-19 rules is the US, which announced last week of having abandoned the need for both international and local travelers from producing a negative Covid-19 certificate before they are allowed to board flights as long as they are fully vaccinated.
The move will come as a major boost to tourism as travelers will no longer be scared of stringent rules when returning to their country after visiting a nation that has high cases of Covid-19.
American tourists top the number of visitors in Kenya when it comes to tourism, playing a key role in promoting the local economy.
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Last year, the US accounted for 13.3 percent of the total number of visitors that came to Kenya, which stood at 136,000.
The aviation industry is projected to return to pre-Covid levels earlier than expected following a recovery in business and easing of Covid-19 restrictions across the world.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says the sector could return to pre-pandemic passenger traffic levels sooner than the 2024 date that had previously been issued.
IATA chief executive officer Willie Walsh said recently that the industry could reach 2019 traffic levels by next year.
Kenya is among the countries that have eased travel restrictions on arriving passengers after years of stringent rules to tame the spread of the virus.
Arriving passengers in Kenya are no longer required to undertake mandatory PCR tests at the airport neither do they need to quarantine.
The Ministry of Health is also allowing unvaccinated travelers in the country but must have a PCR negative certificate taken 72 hours before departure.