Kenya to launch transit visas by January 2018

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The government will soon roll out a transit visa for tourists passing through Nairobi to other destinations in a bid to boost the recovering tourism in the country, Tourism CS Najib Balala announced on Friday. The visa will be valid for four days, he said.

Addressing more than 200 delegates during the official opening of the Tourism Innovation and Change Forum in Nairobi, Balala said the plan has been approved by the Cabinet.

“The president has directed myself and … (Interior CS Joseph) Nkaissery to create a framework with Kenya Airways and by January 1, there will be a transit visa for people who come to Kenya via Kenya Airways. That is a decision that has been made,” Balala said.

The CS, however, said is there is need for policymakers and tourism players to be dynamic and innovative in pricing products based on demand as shaped by high- and low-seasons.

“If our low season is April, May and June, let’s reduce our visa entry fee during the same period,” he said. “When the trends are higher we make it expensive (and) when the trends are lower we make it cheaper.”

Balala said the policy to charge flat fees throughout the year at different tourist destinations was not a competitive strategy.

He pledged to propose a change of policy before the Cabinet.

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Tourism contributes about 10 per cent to the country’s national wealth – technically referred to as gross domestic product – with an estimated one million tourists visiting the country every year on average.

The conference discussed measures and strategies that can help the industry diversify its product offering to enhance sustainable growth.

Traffic congestion, insecurity, inadequate digital innovations, low-quality entertainment and little innovations in terms of service delivery were some of the key challenges pointed out in the forum.

Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohammed, who represented President Uhuru Kenyatta at the conference, challenged investors to look at expanding tourist facilities beyond Nairobi and Mombasa

“Each county has a unique aspect to leverage on,” she said.

Amina said the Jubilee adminstration was committed to bettering the investment environment.

“A new cruise ship terminal is under construction and will be completed by September 2017 at berth 1 in Mombasa Port,” she said. “Additionally, Sh7 billion was allocated in the current 2016-2017 budget for modernisation of major airports and airstrips, including Moi International airport, Isiolo, Malindi, Kisumu and Lamu.”

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