Qatar Airways’ first non-stop flight from Doha to Mombasa, Kenya, landed on December 9 at Moi International Airport, marking the airline’s second gateway in Kenya, and a move that is expected to boost the country’s tourism industry.
Flight QR1333, operated by an Airbus A320, departed Hamad International Airport (HIA) on Sunday, December 9, at 02h30, arriving at Moi International Airport at 08h40, where it was welcomed with a celebratory water cannon salute.
Mohammed Hersi, Kenya Tourism Federation Chairman and Operations Director for Pollman’s Tours and Safaris, who formed part of the County Government welcome delegation for the inaugural Qatar flight, said the new direct flight was great news for the tourism industry. “We have been lobbying for open skies for a long time, and we are happy that Mombasa and Kenya’s coast is now able to attract world-leading airlines like Qatar.”
Kenya Airports Authority Managing Director, Johnny Anderson, said: “The aviation sector in Kenya is shining bright. The Qatar Airways destination network will be a major boost to the coastal economy, especially in the area of tourism. This is a major milestone. Welcome to Mombasa.”
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, commented: “Today’s (December 9) inaugural flight to the beautiful coastal city of Mombasa marks further growth and strengthening bonds between the State of Qatar and Kenya. We are thrilled to be the first Middle East airline to offer direct flights to Mombasa, our second gateway into Kenya.”
According to the Kenya Tourism Board, the flight will increase visitor arrivals to Kenya by at least an additional 500 visitors per week and 2 000 per month, based on 132 seats, four times a week.
Hersi told Tourism Update that the Middle East was considered an emerging market by Kenya’s tourism industry, adding that the country was also targeting the millions of expats based in the Gulf countries.
He said the Middle East held great tourism potential for Kenya and East Africa at large, especially the safari circuit. “While they are attracted by sports hunting, we want them to appreciate conservation and also experience the strong culture and excellent natural beaches we have at the Kenyan coast.”
Middle Eastern travellers to Kenya tend to visit the Masai Mara and Nairobi, said Hersi, however he said Mombasa was coming up strongly.
“We are also keen to see Mombasa getting direct flights to more cities globally, as Mombasa serves the entire Kenyan coast from Shimoni to Lamu. We are repositioning Mombasa also as a MICE destination and direct flights are critical,” concluded Hersi.
On board the inaugural Qatar Airways flight to Mombasa was Qatar Airways Chief Flight Operations Officer, Captain Jassim Al-Haroon, who was joined by the Kenyan Chargé D’Affaires to the State of Qatar, Washington Oloo. The VIP delegation was greeted on arrival by the County Government of Mombasa Deputy Governor, Dr. William Kingi; County Government of Mombasa Executive for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Fawz Ali; Kenya Tourism Federation Chairman and Operations Director for Pollman’s Tours and Safaris, Mohammed Hersi; Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, Director Aviation Safety Security and Regulation, Captain Tom Ogenche; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Director, Middle East Directorate, Jackline Yonga; Kenya Tourism Board CEO, Betty Radier; Moi International Airport GM Marketing and Business Development; Jimmy Kibati, and Moi International Airport Manager; Peter Wafula.
Qatar Airways will operate the Mombasa service four times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, using an Airbus A320 aircraft with 12 business-class seats and 120 seats in economy class.