Increased air accessibility has contributed significantly to East Africa’s tourism industry, giving new life to previously inaccessible beach and bush destinations. Tourism Update looks at air access offered by some of the primary carriers across East Africa.

Kenya’s tourist arrivals increased to 2 025 206 in 2018, up 37.3% from the 1 474 671 recorded in 2017.

Mohammed Hersi, Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Federation and Group Director of Operations at Pollmans Tours and Safaris, says the increase in international interest in Kenya can be attributed to Kenya Tourism Board’s promotion of the country, together with industry players and the Charter Incentive Programme for Mombasa, which have all played a role.

In addition, new flights being added, such as Qatar’s direct flights from Doha to Mombasa and Kenya Airways’ flights between New York and Nairobi  have all contributed to the increase in arrivals, says Hersi: “Accessibility, and by reputable airlines, is crucial to any destination, hence any new flight by good airlines is good news.”

According to Devan Jobanputra, Director of Travel in Style, increased marketing, new products, and improved accessibility, with more scheduled and charter flights, are all contributing factors to Kenya’s significant increase in arrivals for 2018. 

Accessibility to East Africa’s beach and bush destinations

Charlotte Smith, Manager of Giltedge DMC, says there are regular air schedules between locations, either via charter or scheduled flights, with some large international charters also flying directly into beach locations, such as Mombasa and Zanzibar connected by TUI Airways, Travel Service and Condor.

CEO of Lakato Safaris, Hilda Nakato, says most of Easy Africa’s beach destinations can easily be accessed by air.

When visiting Mombasa, Nakato says the city is easily accessible by road, water (cruises), air and rail, and Zanzibar is accessible by air, road and rail.

According to Ruth Chege, Head of Sales and Product for Sense of Africa East Africa, international airlines that fly into Mombasa include Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Qatar Airways, RwandAir, TUI Fly Belgium, TUI Fly Netherlands, Turkish Airlines, Neos (Italy), and Condor (Germany).

As for carriers that fly into Dar es Salaam, Chege mentions Emirates, Etihad Airways, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, KLM, Kenya Airways, RwandAir, Turkish Airlines, Oman Air, Air Mauritius, Qatar Airways, SWISS, and SAA.

International carriers that fly into Zanzibar, according to Chege, include Emirates, Oman Air, Air Italy, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, SAA, Turkish Airlines and Kenya Airways.

Coastal Aviation flies to both bush and beach destinations. “We focus on connecting bush to beach destinations for those coming on safari or to climb Kilimanjaro, but also those who dream of the beautiful beaches of the country,” comments Gabriele Manzoni, Coastal Aviation Marketing Manager.

Manzoni says Coastal Aviation’s schedule includes 44 destinations, operating at least twice a day to many, and 11 times a day to Zanzibar from Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam.

According to Manzoni, UK tourists are leading Coastal Aviation’s sales, followed closely by the US and South Africa, and out of Europe, Germany is the top key source market.

Terryann Mutindi, Marketing and Communication Head at Safarilink Aviation, told Tourism Update that Safarilink flies to over 17 destinations across Kenya and Tanzania, making some of East Africa’s iconic destinations that much more accessible, recommending Maasai Mara, Amboseli, Samburu, Tsavo, and coastal regions, such as Diani, Vipingo (Mombasa), Lamu, and Zanzibar to visitors looking to diversify their itineraries.

Auric Air flies to Arusha, Manyara (Ngorongoro), Serengeti (Seronera), Kogatende, Lobo, Sasakwa, Fort Ikoma, Ndutu, Serengeti South, Lamai, Grumeti, Mwiba, Dolly Kiligolf, Tarangire/Kuro, Kigali, Entebbe, Zanzibar, Mafia, Pemba, Dar es Salaam, Selous, Ruaha, Tanga, Rubondo Island, Mwanza, Tarime, Dodoma, Maasai Mara.

Out of these, Deepesh Gupta, Business Development Manager at Auric Air told Tourism Update that the most popular destinations among tourists were Arusha, Manyara (Ngorongoro), Serengeti (Seronera), Kogatende, Lobo, Sasakwa, Fort Ikoma, Ndutu, Serengeti South, Lamai, Grumeti, Mwiba, Dolly Kiligolf, Tarangire/Kuro, Kigali, Entebbe, Zanzibar, Mafia, Pemba, Dar es Salaam, Selous, Ruaha, Tanga, Rubondo Island, Mwanza, Tarime, and the Maasai Mara.