The Kenyan government has been urged to implement the open-skies policy at Moi International Airport, Mombasa, to bolster international tourist arrivals at the coast.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala, said when the government authorised more international airlines to operate flights to Mombasa, the industry at the Kenya coast could take a shorter time to recover.

He added that opening skies in Mombasa could boost air connectivity between the country’s tourism hub and cities in overseas markets and uplift international arrivals.

Balala said tourism in the region could no longer depend on charter flights from Europe as only a few airlines operated flights to Mombasa. “During the 2011 peak period, Moi Airport used to receive more than 40 charter flights a week from Europe, bringing a large number of international visitors.”

At the moment, he added, the airport received only seven flights a week, resulting in a low number of foreign tourists in the region. “To achieve sustainable tourism development at the coast, the government ought to open skies in Mombasa so that airlines from across the world can operate flights to Moi Airport.”

Kenya Tourism Federation Chairman, Mohamed Hersi, said the government should open the skies in Mombasa for more international airlines to fly to the region. He said more airlines operating to the city would mean international visitor numbers would soar and boost the hotel industry.

Hersi added that international airlines that were interested in flying to the coast should be given the go-ahead. “Regional airlines RwandAir and Ethiopian Airlines have been helping tourism in Mombasa, as they have been operating daily scheduled flights from Kigali and Addis Ababa,” he said.

Last year, the Kenyan government granted traffic rights to Dubai-based airline, flydubai , to operate flights between Dubai and Mombasa, but to date it is yet to introduce service.

Other airlines from the Gulf showed interest in flights to Mombasa, but have been facing difficulties in getting authorisation from the Kenyan authorities.

German holiday airline, Condor, is expected to increase flights to the city from Frankfurt and Munich from one to three a week during the summer period. Turkish Airlines is the only airline from Europe operating scheduled flights between Istanbul and Mombasa.