Tourism boost as chartered flight from China lands in Kenya

NAIROBI— Kenya’s tourism sector received a major boost with the arrival of the first chartered flight this year from China on Saturday.

The trip comes barely a month after China lifted covid-19 restrictions that had lasted three years due to the pandemic.

The 40 tourists aboard a chartered China Southern Airlines from Guangzhou landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and will be in the country for a period of ten days and are expected to visit and explore different attraction sites in the country including the famous Amboseli and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

Song and dance rent the air as officials from Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism and the Kenya Tourism Board received the Chinese travelers. The group is a first batch and more visitors from the East Asian Country, the second-largest economy in the world, are expected to land in the country in the coming weeks.

“We took eleven hours to get here and we are feeling excited, it’s amazing, we love being here. We want to watch the animals here. Kenyan people are also wonderful and we want to interact with them,” one of the Chinese travelers said

Indeed, John Ololtua, the Principal Secretary in the state department of tourism, who led the team to JKIA, lauded the Chinese Government for reopening its borders and allowing outbound travel. He noted that the move will be hugely beneficial economically to many countries, Kenya included.

“We are delighted to host the passengers aboard this flight as they plan to experience the best of magical Kenya in the next few days. This flight also marks the first time the airline is landing in Kenya with a group of travelers since a ban on group tours was imposed by Chinese government in 2020,” said the PS

Ololtua noted that; “a Chinese tourist has an adventurous spirit and is willing to pay for value for adventourous experiences. They want a wow experience and these are the experiences we are offering in Kenya,”

The PS noted that the tourists are visiting at an important time when the tourism sector is working towards a recovery following the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“We are delighted by this return given that China had recorded one of the longest closures on international flights. It is indeed an exciting moment for us because it means that we have resumed connectivity with one of world’s key growing source markets for international tourist arrivals,” he said

“We look forward to China Southern Airlines increasing its frequency as we continue working together to grow Kenya tourism. The Chinse market presents a huge opportunity to Kenya’s tourism industry just like all the other countries partnering with us in the sector,” noted the Principal Secretary

Some of the industry stakeholders including representatives from the hotel sector expressed delight in the arrival of the Chinese tourists especially given the slump in the number of visitors since covid struck, leaving the sector and the country at large counting heavy losses. They noted that the arrival of tourists will help the economic recovery.

The government of Kenya and China have over the years had a strong bilateral relationship bound by the people of the two nations. Kenya’s relationship with China extends to infrastructure development, trade and tourism among other areas.

Before the outbreak of covid-19, China showed great potential as a source market for tourists amid growing relations between the two countries. The ministry of tourism says China contributes about 5.5 percent of international tourist arrivals to Kenya.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, at least 230,000 Chinese nationals visited Kenya and spent nights in various hotels in different parts of the country in 2018. The number was a significant surge from 192,000 in 2017 and 131,000 in 2016.

A majority of Chinese tourists visit Kenya between July and September specially to see the Wildebeest migration.