Friday, 9 March 2018

KENYA: Silverstone Air Services To Commence Mombasa-Kisumu Cargo Flights

Traders in Mombasa and Kisumu have more transport options for their goods. Silverstone Air Services announced it will launch air cargo transportation between the counties.

Silverstone Air Services, which started operating direct passenger flights between the two cities in February, says the new cargo route will boost trade between the devolved units.

We will start cargo transportation and we are slightly cheaper. We will do all cargo and parcels apart from non-dangerous goods. For body transportation we will charge Sh40,000 only.

Traders dealing with fish from the two counties who have been urging us to start transporting their commodities can now breathe a sigh of relief, the airline's sales manager Patrick Oketch said Monday.

Silverstone Air is a fairly new entrant into the local aviation scene and has been on an expansion binge barely six months since setting up in Kenya.

The low cost carrier's passenger flights target tourists from the Western and Coastal regions and is charging about Sh10,500 for a one-way ticket between Kisumu and Mombasa.

It operates twice a week, every Friday and Sunday.

The company has employed about 186 staff.

The airline’s chief executive officer, Mohamed Somow, says the company will soon expand to operate more routes across the country.

Mombasa deputy governor William Kingi urged traders to use the airline to transport fresh tilapia consumed in Mombasa, usually transported to the port city by road.

In recent times, local fish traders have faced stiff competition from Chinese imports flooding the Kenyan market.

With Kisumu’s strategic position on Lake Victoria and on the fringes of the Great Lakes Region, a direct link to Mombasa is a big boon for both cities.

Can we explore Mombasa port to expand the market for Nyanza's fresh fish? Silverstone air services will soon fly our sea fish to Nyanza, the deputy governor said.

Meanwhile, players in the aviation industry have urged the national government to allocate more funds to upgrading existing airstrips and international airports to support the sector.

Local airline Silverstone Air has launched daily flights to Lodwar, raising the competition for customers on the route that is also served by Fly540, Safarilink and several other carriers.

Silverstone Air says their daily return flight, which will take off from Wilson Airport, will help them connect business and leisure customers travelling to the increasingly popular town.

The airline was until October last year operating as a charter-only carrier but stepped up to offer commercial flights from Nairobi to Lamu, Malindi, Ukunda and Kisumu.

Air travel demand is expected to double in the next 15 years. Silverstone Air aims to be at the forefront of this development, said Captain Mohamed Somow, airline’s managing director.

The domestic air market has seen rising demand in the recent years as more Kenyans opt to fly in line with rising income and construction of new airstrips and airports.

Silverstone will initially operate five planes on its local routes, consisting of two Dash-8 planes and three Fokker 50 aircraft.

Meanwhile, The tourism sector could get a Sh6 billion boost if plans to amend the Air Passenger Charge Act 2016 are successful.

MPs want the amendment to unlock the cash that the Treasury has been collecting to plug a budget deficit in the Ministry of Tourism.

Parliamentary Committee on Sports, Tourism and Culture says the changes will see the Ministry of Tourism included in the law as a beneficiary of the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) Fund established under the Act.

The committee said the ministry plans to undertake several projects including the construction of Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) annex that is expected to expand capacity of the facility to host global conferences and exhibitions at a cost of Sh27 billion.

It plans to spend Sh29 billion to construct the Mombasa International Convention Centre that will market Kenya as a conference tourism destination in the region and internationally.

The planned building of Nairobi International Convention Exhibition Centre is estimated to cost Sh17 billion.

The ministry also plans to upgrade of Mama Ngina drive waterfront into a modern recreation area of global standards.

The MPs said the amendments to the Air Passenger Service Act would unlock funding for the key priority projects.

This would propel the unlocking of Sh6 billion that has been collected since the enactment of the Act by the national Treasury interns of air passenger taxes and enable it to meet the deficits in budget policy statement, Victor Munyaka, who chairs the committee said in a brief to the Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC).

MPs last week adopted BAC report on the Budget Policy Statement.

The KAA Act establishes the fund where all proceeds from the levy collected under the Air Passenger Service Charge Act is paid into.

Visitor arrivals into Kenya from East Africa has grown substantially in the past three years, official data shows, partly signalling the benefits of an open visa scheme for the region.

Kenya last year recorded a combined arrival of 95,845 visitors from Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, up from 80,841 in 2016.

In 2015, some 58,032 visitors arrived from these countries.

Uganda topped the list of Kenya’s top source markets in Africa, growing by 20.6 per cent to 61,542 arrivals, Kenya’s Tourism ministry said in its sector performance report for 2017.

Arrivals from Tanzania also grew by an impressive 21.8 per cent in last year to 21,110 compared to 2016. Visitors from Rwanda increased to 12,193 in 2017 from 11,658 the previous year.

Uganda saw its share in Kenya tourism arrivals nearly double in the past three years.

Data by the Kenya’s Tourism ministry showed that Uganda was Kenya’s third largest source market for tourism with an overall share of 6.4 per cent last year compared to 3.9 per cent in 2015 and 5.8 per cent in 2016.

East Africa has implemented multi-entry single tourist visa since February 2014.

This visa enables visitors travelling in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda to travel across all the three regions using a single permit that can be obtained in any of these countries.

The move is a way of encouraging integration of citizens and cross-border trade

The contribution of visitor arrivals from East Africa helped grow Kenya’s overall tourism arrivals to 1.47 million last year, up from 1.34 million in 2016 although the numbers remained well below a peak of 1.83 million in 2011.

The increase saw the country’s revenue from tourism jump 20 per cent last year even as the sector continued to recover from a series of terrorist attacks on the country a few years ago that had scared away foreign visitors.

Revenue from tourism, one of Kenya’s main hard currency earners alongside tea and horticulture, totalled Sh120 billion for 2017, Tourism secretary Najib Balala said last week.

Kenya grew stronger in 2017 as a destination brand following positive visibility. This was achieved despite a busy electioneering season that threatened to slow down tourism activities, Mr Balala said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government wants to bring in three million visitors a year, according to a manifesto published when he was first elected in early 2013.

In his inauguration speech for his second term on November 28, President Kenyatta said Africans wishing to visit Kenya would be eligible to receive a visa on arrival.

Adding that citizens from the East African Community will only need a national identification card to travel, work, do business, own property, farm and even marry and settle in Kenya.

Kenya anticipates that the new measures will enhance trade and security as well as foster cohesion in the continent.

I will work with you, leaders of the East African Community, to bring a renewed energy and optimism to our union.

Together, we can deliver the peace and prosperity for which our citizens are crying out; divided, we will struggle to realise the full potential of our people, President Kenyatta said during his inauguration.

Presently Seychelles does not demand a visa for any African country, while Namibia, Ghana, Rwanda, Mauritius, Nigeria, and Benin have all adopted this no-visa policy over the past two years.

The African Union in 2016 also launched a continental passport as part of a strategy to encourage open borders.

Central African Economic and Monetary Community recently reached a key pact making travel within the six-member regional block.

These comprise Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon and Chad, visa-free and integration of central Africa a reality.

Tourism Observer

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