HAPPY: Kenya’s Minister of Tourism, Najib Balala. Picture: Supplied
Jeremy Shepherd Smith
Low-cost airline 1Time will commence direct flights between Johannesburg and Mombasa next month, further extending the airline’s footprint in sub-Saharan Africa and cooperation between South Africa and east Africa’s strongest economy.
The carrier expects between 200 and 300 passengers a week to use the direct flights from OR Tambo International Airport to Mombasa International. The price for a return ticket is expected to be between $600 (R4600) and $800 (R6136) return, depending on seasonality and demand. The real coup for 1Time is that whereas Kenya Airlines and SAA fly to Nairobi, Mombasa is on the coast and also closer to Johannesburg. This means the flight is not only shorter (and therefore more convenient) for passengers and less costly for the airline, but once on the ground travellers are already at the beach and the trip to the iconic Masai Mara game reserve is only about 170km away overland. This will allow package tour operators to significantly reduce their prices for combined beach and safari holidays.
The carrier already flies twice a week to Zanzibar, Tanzania, and five times a week from Johannesburg to Livingstone in Zambia.
1Time CEO Rodney James said at the launch of the new route in Mombasa this week that the carrier would initially target the outbound South African leisure and business traveller market but expected an increase in the number of Kenyans who would visit South Africa. Minister of Tourism Najib Balala said earlier that Kenya had a growing middle class and that domestic tourism was “very active”. Tourism overall contributes 10% to Kenya’s gross domestic product.
James said 1Time was the first direct service between South Africa and Mombasa and “we expect many South Africans will be enticed to visit, owing to Mombasa’s ideal tropical setting, game viewing attractions and numerous water activities available”.
Mombasa, an island city on the coast, is Kenya’s second-largest centre.
“Having already encountered great yields and load factors on our Zanzibar route, we anticipate that Mombasa will deliver similar positive results,” said James.
After being badly hit by post-election violence in 2007 and early 2008, the Kenyan tourism industry is pushing to lift foreign exchange earnings from 73 billion Kenya shillings in 2010 to more than Ksh200 billion by 2015. In a population of 40 million, more than 500000 Kenyans make a living from tourism.
Balala said 34000 South Africans travelled to Kenya in the first 11 months of last year. This was 16% growth over 2010. The world economic slump, while hitting tourism hard worldwide, had a positive spin-off in that tourists from countries in the region would choose a cheaper holiday destination closer to home, such as Kenya, rather than going to Europe or America.
He said the beach experience was the biggest attraction for foreigners, closely followed by safari. although most visitors experience both.