Qatar Airways is eyeing a direct route from Europe to Malindi, Kenya. This was discussed during a recent meeting held between government officials from Qatar and President Uhuru Kenyatta. The meeting was held to finalise plans for the December 9 launch of the direct Doha-Mombasa route.

At the meeting, Qatari officials told those gathered that they are looking at introducing a flight between Milan, Italy and the coastal resort town of Malindi. Currently, travellers looking to get to Malindi can only do so via Mombasa or Nairobi, connecting to Malindi via smaller, low-cost regional carriers. According to Italian billionaire-hotelier, Flavio Briatore, who owns two resorts in the town, connecting flights are not timed well with inbound flights to Nairobi or Mombasa.

In October last year, Tourism Update reported a lack of visitors in the Malindi and Watamu regions of Kilifi County due to a lack of air access, particularly for larger, long-haul aircraft.

Mohammed Hersi, Director of Operations at Pollman’s Tours & Safaris, as well as Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Federation, told Tourism Update that the destination is popular amongst Italian tourists and “any chance to fly them direct without going through Nairobi or Mombasa, they will support it.” However, he noted that the airport currently would not support wide-bodied aircraft, although government has plans to change this.

In January 2018, the Kenyan government announced plans to upgrade the runway at Malindi Airport from the current 1.4 kilometres to 2.5 kilometres. The government spent KSh424 million (€3.6 million) compensating landowners affected by the expansion of the airport. Other plans include increasing the number of hangars by six.

Devan Jobanputra, Director at Travel in Style says that a direct flight to Malindi from Europe would mean positive change for the region. “It would mean regeneration of the towns and beach resorts which have for years relied on tourism for development.”

Speaking generally, Hersi noted that there has been increased interest in Kenya’s beaches. “We are seeing more flights coming into Mombasa purely driven by beach holiday seekers,” he says, adding that a number of carriers have shown interest in Mombasa and Malindi, including Ethiopian Airlines. “New charters from Brussels and Amsterdam will start at the end of this month and the first week of November,” he says.