Home ECONOMY EDITORIAL: Improved visitor access a boost to the economy

EDITORIAL: Improved visitor access a boost to the economy

by biasharadigest

EDITORIAL: Improved visitor access a boost to the economy

An immigration official
An immigration official serves travellers at the JKIA in Nairobi. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NMG 

Kenya has improved significantly in improving the ease with which it allows visitors into its territory. The country’s international airports’ departure and arrival termini have, for some time now, been outstanding in terms of the efficiency with which they clear passengers compared to others in the region.

And for the second time, the Africa Visa Openness Index, published by the African Development Bank (AfDB), has ranked the country high on its list of countries that have improved visitor access.

The AfDB Index ranked Kenya at ninth position in 2018, a marked improvement from 15th on in 2017.

The AfDB Index attributes the six-place jump to a presidential directive of 2017 that has seen the immigration department issuing visas to Africans on arrival at various ports of entry. The directive appears to have borne fruit.

In the 20 months to December 31, Kenya’s visitor arrivals crossed the two million mark and there is room for it to grow even more if the country maintains the momentum.

Tourism earnings of countries such as Egypt, Morocco and South Africa show that Kenya is yet to hit its growth potential. However, there is still room for improvement.

For instance, Kenya can reduce the high service charges that travellers have to pay at its airports.

Kenyan airports levy $50 as service charge on airlines alongside an array of other taxes. This compares unfavourably with practices elsewhere in Africa where service charge ranges between $30 and $35.

It is instructive to note that the latest complaint about high service charge has come from the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), the agency charged with managing our airports. Because these charges are part of ticket price keeping them up can only hurt price-sensitive segments such as travel and holidaying. The State needs to relook the fee and align it with regional and international standards.

There is no doubt Kenya needs to earn a fair share of revenues from its capital-intensive airports but that should not be at the expense of other segments of the economy.

The same way the State has balanced security concerns with visa openness, so it must weigh its revenue needs against efforts to promote tourism.

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