Kenya is among the top 10 African countries for visa openness, a survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has shown.
The country is ranked 10 out of 37 countries for visa openness and 31st for cost competitiveness in the continent.
The findings are among highlights of The Importance of Air Transport to Kenya, a study by Oxford Economics on behalf of IATA.
IATA Regional Vice President for the Middle East & Africa Muhammad Ali Albakri said Kenya could reap greater dividends from aviation by adopting policies that ensure a competitive operating environment for airlines.
While Kenya’s air transport infrastructure ranks highly among African states, it is important that heavy fees, taxes and charges do not hold aviation back, he said.
About a fortnight ago, Kenya granted South Africans additional time to visit without visas, pointing to a thawing of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Kenya is also set to commence the issuance of four-day transit visas from January which will allow foreign passengers on Kenya Airways awaiting connection flights at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to exit for shopping and sightseeing.
Passengers on layovers, a break between two flights taking passengers to their final destination, will receive a 96-hour transit visa, up from the current 72.
The move is expected to boost KQ’s income and the local travel industry as well as increase the attractiveness of JKIA as a transit port.
The IATA survey showed that an estimated 130,000 aircraft land and take off annually from the JKIA which is the key gateway to the rest of the world.
In 2014, JKIA handled over 5.8 million passengers, the Moi International Airport in Mombasa handled 950,000 passengers while the Wilson Airport handled 310,000 passengers.
The study found that air transport sector’s ability to connect Kenya to emerging countries and fast growing cities can help drive economic growth.
There are 6 direct flight destinations among the ten fastest growing countries in the world as measured by GDP growth and 9 direct flight destinations among the 20 fastest growing countries.
The data shows there are 20 direct weekly flights among the ten fastest growing cities in the world as measured by GDP growth and 41 direct weekly flights among the 100 fastest growing cities.
Albakri said the study confirms the vital role that air transport plays in supporting the country’s economy.
The data showing that the air transport sector in Kenya supports some 620,000 jobs including tourism-related employment, while contributing Sh329.6 billion (US$3.2 billion) or 5.1 per cent of the East African nation’s GDP.