Kenya Plans to Court Ryanair, easyJet to Boost Beach Tourism

(Bloomberg) -- Kenya plans discussions with low-cost airlines such as Ryanair Holdings Plc and easyJet Plc to begin flying to the East African nation famous for its beaches and safaris, its tourism minister said.

Tourism is one of the country’s biggest generators of foreign exchange after remittances and agricultural exports, and earned the nation 119.9 billion shillings ($1.2 billion) last year, according to the Kenya Tourism Board.

“We are developing a strategy to encourage low-cost carriers from the U.K. to fly here,” Tourism Secretary Najib Balala said in an interview in the Indian Ocean city of Mombasa on Tuesday. “I will be looking to start discussions with Ryanair and easyJet.”

If Balala’s talks are successful, the coastal city will be the first sub-Saharan African destination for both carriers. Mombasa’s airport is the country’s second-biggest after Nairobi’s, with many tourists seeking the region’s sun and sand. Kenya is also famed for its wildlife.

The U.K., a hub for both carriers, is Kenya’s biggest source of tourists so far this year after the U.S., Balala said, followed by India, China and Germany. As many as 16 percent of arrivals are now from other African countries, he said.

Kenya expects visitor numbers to climb by 18 percent this year, boosted by improved security, infrastructure such as a new railway and global hotel brands expanding there, Balala said. In 2017, the number of arrivals grew 10 percent to almost 1 million tourists, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Kenya Airways Plc, sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest carrier, will introduce direct flights to U.S. later next month, and plans to add as many as 20 new destinations in the next five years.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.