An ugly diplomatic row between Kenya and Tanzania that has seen Kenyan airlines blocked from the latter’s airspace spells trouble for the tourism industry in both countries.
It is a fact of life that Kenyan and Tanzanian economies are heavily reliant on the revenue raked in by the tourism sector.
In 2019, Kenya raked in Ksh163.56 billion ($1.61 billion) from tourism which rose by 3.9% percent compared to 2018. The country played host to 2.05 million visitors, a majority of who were American tourists.
This squarely placed Kenya’s tourism sector among the top forex earner for the country. For a similar period, Tanzania raked in $2 billion from the tourism sector which accounts for 17% of the country’s GDP making it the biggest source of foreign exchange for Tanzania.
However, with the impressive figures which have been depressed over the last six months due to coronavirus pandemic both countries could live to speak of greater losses due to the diplomatic row which sees no Tanzanian plane into Kenya and no Kenyan plane into Tanzania yet these are two big tourist destinations in East Africa.
Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) chairman Mohamed Hersi who is a major player in the industry faulted a decision by Kenya to leave out Tanzania from countries allowed to fly in upon resumption on international flights on August 1.
In its health and safety protocols, passengers from Tanzania were to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine whether positive for coronavirus or not, something that angered the John Pombe Magufuli led administration.
This triggered Tanzania’s “reciprocal move” where Kenya Airways was banned from flying into Tanzania before 3 other airlines from Kenya got a memo on the same.
“This time round we are on the wrong and we should quietly swallow our pride and fix this problem. As long as we continue to exclude Tanzania from the list of the countries that can visit Kenya without being quarantined then they will continue doing this and I won’t be surprised if this ends with border closure,” Hersi warned as quoted by Business Daily.
In contrast, Tanzania Tourists Board managing director, Devota Mdachi said the country does not quarantine any of its tourists who produce Covid-19 free certificate.
She said that in July, Serengeti, a popular tourist spot got 870 tourists something she attributed to the convenience of Tanzania’s safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Tanzania has a story to tell Africa and the world. We took a stand to ensure safety and health of our people as our doors remained opened. A task force was set up to implement a standard operating procedure which has really helped us. Schools were shut,” Mdachi averred.
Kenyan authorities say that they are having talks aimed at resolving this standoff soonest but nothing much has been forthcoming for the last one month as KQ remains grounded from flying into Tanzania.