Mombasa — Hotels at the Kenyan Coast are increasingly losing to Zanzibar international visitors who arrive by charter flights.
Following terrorism attacks which hit Kenya in 2014, a large number of tourists chose the Tanzanian archipelago and have since been making return visits giving Diani, Malindi and Watamu a wide berth.
Likewise, during the Likoni clashes in 1997, some hotel owners in the region relocated their investments to Zanzibar and in its wake repeat guests also shifted their holidays to the island.
Other factors believed to have given Zanzibar an edge is that the island has modern hotels while standards in most facilities at the Coast have degenerated due to lack of renovations. Some were built almost a half a century ago.
Although it is currently high tourist season, most hotels across Kenya have a low number of international guests at below 10 per cent compared to numbers of between 20 and 50 per cent in the peak period of 2011.
Somak Travel general manager Paul Kurgat said the majority of the international tourists flown to Mombasa by charter airlines are on transit to Zanzibar.
"One of the factors which have contributed to low number of international tourists at the Coast is that the charter airlines leave behind a few passengers in Mombasa while many are taken to Zanzibar," he said.
Currently, charter flights from Europe to Mombasa are eight a week compared with 40 in the same period during the peak period of 2011.
Charter airlines operating flights to Mombasa are German's Condor, Small Planet from Poland as well as Meridiana Fly and Neosair from Italy.
When Condor reintroduced flights from Munich to Mombasa in June, the inauguration flight had 240 passengers, out of whom only 90 remained in Mombasa while the rest were on transit to Zanzibar.
Due to terrorism, Condor crew who used to stay in Mombasa over the years relocated to Zanzibar.
They, however, switched their stay back to Mombasa last year after the UK and the US authorities lifted travel advisories against Mombasa and other coastal towns.
In an interview with Smart Company, Mr Kurgat said many tourists, who arrive at the Moi International Airport, Mombasa, by charter flights head to Zanzibar for leisure.
He said Nairobi and upcountry tourist hotspots were not affected as many international airlines operate scheduled flights to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
To address the challenge, Mr Kurgat said Kenya should continue to convince leading tour operators and agents in overseas markets that the country is safe.
ASSALAAMU 'ALAYKUM NI KATIKA KUSHIRIKIANA KWA KUPEANA HABARI KWA PICHA NA MATUKIO, KUKUMBUSHANA YALIYOJIRI HUKU NA KULE NA KUWEKA KUMBUKUMBU AMBAYO WEWE UNAETEMBELEA ITAWEZA KUKUHABARISHA AU KUKUMBUSHA KITU, JAMBO AU TUKIO.