East African Tourism Stuck in Turbulent Skies

Tourism investors in the region are challenged by the ongoing airspace tension between Kenya and Tanzania, now damaging the East African tourism and travel sector in the region.

Tension over the regional skies between Tanzania and Kenya were observed last month when Tanzanian aviation authorities banned Kenya Airways to land in Tanzania after Kenya deleted Tanzania from its list of airlines allowed to land freely in Kenyan airports.

Travelers from Tanzania entering Kenya are facing a mandatory 2-week quarantine to curb the spread of COVID-19 although the disease is zero rated in Tanzania after early COVID-19 suspects were treated then released from hospitals 3 months ago.

Retaliating to such a step, Tanzania then banned Kenya Airways from landing in Tanzania.

With no solution in place, Kenya Tourism Federation Chairman Mohamed Hersi said the friction that seems to be escalating is unfortunate, particularly at a time when the world is facing the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is quite unnecessary. This friction and misunderstanding needs to be solved once and for all to enable the friendly states to get back to normal,” he said in a message through Kenyan media.

Mr. Hersi, who is also the Director of Operations at Pollmans Tours and Safaris, said there was little that the 2 countries are fighting over, considering that the region attracts far less tourists than other global destinations.

“Africa combined, accounts for a paltry 5 percent, and half of all the international arrivals into the continent go to North Africa, largely due to proximity to key source markets in Europe. The remainder goes to the rest of Africa,” he said.

There is a need to embrace intra-Africa travel, he said, which has a lot of potential, hence the need for African states to work closely with each other, Hersi said.

Tourism Professional Association Chairman Paul Kurgat said there is need to engage in urgent talks to break the stalemate over airspace access to help East African tourism.

Mr. Kurgat said that while the world airspace is slowly opening up with flight resumptions, it was disheartening to see Kenya and Tanzania deny each other essential service.

“Businesses are hurting big time. We urge President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli to end the stalemate and ensure normalcy returns,” he said.

Weeks after banning Kenya Airways to enter Tanzanian skies, the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) has extended its ban on other Kenyan-registered charter and passenger airlines last week.

The other regional airlines banned to fly to Tanzania include Fly540 (5H), Safarilink  Aviation (F2), and Airkenya (P2) as the row over COVID-19-related entry policies escalates, Tanzanian daily The Citizen reported.

TCAA Director General Hamza Johari confirmed that the ban would not be lifted until Kenya adds Tanzania to its list of countries whose citizens are exempted from quarantine on arrival in Kenya. The Tanzanians have perceived the inclusion of their country on the mandatory quarantine list as unfair given that more than 100 countries have already been removed from it.


Authorities in Tanzania banned Kenya Airways from operating to Tanzania on August 1 and remains so despite diplomatic and business overtures.

While Kenya Airways flew mostly from Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Dar es Salaam, in addition to  frequent services to Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar, the other Kenyan-registered airlines focus on tourist markets – mostly Kilimanjaro, Arusha, and Zanzibar.

Fly540 has been operating daily flights from Mombasa to Zanzibar using a Dash 8-100, with Airkenya flying daily from Nairobi Wilson to Kilimanjaro using DHC-6-300s, and Safarilink  flying daily from Nairobi Wilson to both Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro.

No other Kenyan airlines operate scheduled flights to Tanzania at this moment. Services between the 2 countries run by Tanzanian carriers, as well as by Uganda Airlines (UR, Entebbe, and Kampala), remain suspended.