AUG 26, 2014
Confirmation has been received from Nairobi that the Kenyan government has, for the time being, suspended the introduction of what has been described retaliatory Visa requirements for South African citizens.
Forward bookings by South African tourists visiting the Kenya coast had in recent weeks taken a drastic downturn when it became known that wannabe visitors were to appear in person at the Kenya High Commission in Pretoria for the processing of a biometric Visa and then had to wait for several weeks to get it, again to be collected in person. At the time these measures were announced, clearly a step taken in frustration over South Africa in turn requiring Kenyans to pay a hefty processing fee while pretending that the Visa itself was still free but also slapping the requirement of transit Visa on them when flying beyond Johannesburg into a third country.
Forward bookings for Kenya Airways – South Africa is a key African market place for Kenya’s national airline, too were said to have taken a dive as travelers tried to bypass the need for transit Visa in Nairobi by moving their business to other airlines.
In view of the dire situation at the Kenya coast at present, something regular sunshine speeches seem to entirely ignore, the tourism stakeholders for now have succeeded on prevailing upon their Ministry of Foreign Affairs to suspend the new Visa regime and re-enter negotiations with the South African government. Notably have neighbours Tanzania, which holds dual membership in the East African Community and in SADC, been granted Visa free visits to South Africa while in turn South African have been flocking to the beaches of Zanzibar where Mango now flies twice a week from Johannesburg.
‘It was a long way coming and I and my colleagues are happy that Foreign Affairs is now talking to South Africa again. Retaliation was the wrong move and cost Kenya quite a bit of business already. Why cut off your nose to spite your face? That decision was taken in total isolation and neglecting reality on the ground. We need South African tourists and that is a fact. The measures announced a few months ago were simply wrong, no matter about reciprocity. Finally someone came to her senses in that ministry and we hope that issue is now dead and buried. In fact, tourism would be well served if Visa fees for other nationalities be cut by half like in 2008. And I also agree with you that expatriates from the region should be given free entrance to Kenya after producing a resident or work permit from the other East African Community countries. This Visa business is bad for business really and we need every single visitor now’ said a regular source from Mombasa when discussing this latest development. The change of heart is clearly injecting some cautious confidence among the hospitality stakeholders in Mombasa that the flow of South African tourists may resume again, giving added momentum also to calls for direct flights from South Africa to Mombasa.