The local aviation industry has grown considerably since the first flight went through the Kenyan skies. Today, one can book a flight to a number of destinations across the country. This growth has mainly been spurred by devolution which as has opened up regions that were previously untapped. The resources are now trickling to the far-flung towns which previously had closed economies. According to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), there are about 49 licensed airlines operating domestically. Even so, the sector is attracting new players further heating up the airspace competition. This has necessitated the players to come up with creative strategies to ensure their own survival and provide superior customer value. This, in turn, has led to price reductions and expansion on to new routes that have great potential much to the joy of passengers. To this end, they have come to play a central role in domestic tourism and holidays thereby becoming critical players in the tourism value chain.
In this regard, the local airlines are now providing ‘last mile’ connection flights to various destinations at very competitive prices. Those looking forward to enjoying a getaway in locations that were previously not being served by airlines are now able to do so. At the moment, there are flights to Mombasa, Diani, Lamu, Eldoret, Malindi, Kisumu, Ukunda, Lodwar, Masaai Mara, Amboseli, Naivasha, Nanyuki, Kitale, Tsavo West, Homabay, Wajir, Samburu, and Loisaba. It is anticipated that this list of destinations will continue to grow as the infrastructure development continues to spread in the hinterlands. To further enhance customer value for money, the local airlines are partnering with various resorts in the destinations flown thereby offering a comprehensive package, that includes flight, transfer, meals, and accommodation costs.
The passenger numbers are in an upward trajectory with routes like Kisumu and coastal region experiencing steady growth. According to Kelvin Mwasi, Commercial Manager at Skyward Express, the coast region attracts an average of 28% of our passengers, while the other 72% use the upcountry routes. “We recorded 40,583 total passengers by 12th June 2017, with an impressive 55% increase within the same period in 2018 to reach 63,199 total passengers,” he quips. The main technology driving the passenger numbers is flight bookings through the internet and integrated financial technology systems. Consider the case of Skyward Express in 2017 whereby web bookings stood at 11%, direct bookings at 60%, while Travel Agents contributed 29% of the bookings. Comparatively, by 12th June 2018, the web bookings increased to 23% with direct bookings dropping to 47%. Travel Agents now account for 30% of our bookings.
From the foregoing indeed the future of local air travel remains promising. The numbers will definitely go up as incomes levels improve and air travel becomes a regular travel option especially to destinations in far-flung areas. In light of this, it would be a great idea for investors in holiday homes like those at Sultan Palace Beach Retreat to partner with the airlines so that they can provide customized accommodation package to those holidaymakers looking to spend time at the various destinations.
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