Virgin Atlantic and Kenya Airways launch codeshare partnership

Virgin Atlantic and Kenya Airways have announced a new codeshare partnership agreement, enhancing travel options for passengers flying between London Heathrow and Nairobi, as well as providing connections to popular destinations in the Caribbean.

Effective immediately, customers booking through Virgin Atlantic can now directly purchase flights on Kenya Airways’ Heathrow to Nairobi service.

Conversely, Kenya Airways passengers will soon have the opportunity to connect via London Heathrow to Virgin Atlantic’s Caribbean destinations, including Barbados, The Bahamas, Grenada, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented, ‘We’re delighted to launch our partnership with Kenya Airways. As a fellow member of the SkyTeam alliance, we know our customers will enjoy a seamless travel experience, with more opportunities to earn and spend their miles with increased benefits for our SkyPriority members.

‘We’re committed to enhancing connectivity and as the only UK airline to codeshare on the Heathrow to Nairobi route, we’ll be providing more choice and flexibility for customers booking with Virgin Atlantic.’

Julius Thairu, Chief Commercial and Customer Officer of Kenya Airways, commented; ‘We are excited to embark on this transformative partnership with Virgin Atlantic. By leveraging our complementary strengths and networks, we aim to enrich the travel experience for our valued customers, offering them greater choice, convenience and connectivity to key destinations in the world.’

The partnership extends benefits to members of both airlines’ frequent flyer programmes. Virgin Atlantic’s Gold and Silver Flying Club members, along with Kenya Airways Asante Rewards Platinum and Gold members, can avail SkyPriority services at London Heathrow and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, such as priority check-in, baggage handling, and boarding.

In addition to the convenience of the codeshare partnership, visitors from the United Kingdom and other regions outside of Africa now enjoy simplified travel to Kenya, requiring only online authorization instead of a full visa as of January this year.

British Airways increases flights from Nairobi to evacuate UK nationals amid COVID-19 crisis

British Airways has increased its flights from Nairobi to London as part of efforts to evacuate British nationals looking to return home amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, on online report said.

The move comes ahead of the ban on international flights that comes into effect on Wednesday midnight as a measure to contain the spread of Coronavirus.

The United Kingdom Embassy in Kenya has, in a tweet, urged individuals to reserve their flight as early as possible. ‘British Airways have opened up a small number of additional flights from Nairobi to London, for those wishing to return to the UK. We recommend you book on as early a flight as possible. Please visit http://ba.com to book,’ it said.

The British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott highlighted that the flights were only outbound. ‘I should stress that these are outbound (Nairobi to London) only. No one will be allowed to enter Kenya, so the London-Nairobi leg will be empty. What I now know is called a ‘ghost flight’,’ she said.

On Sunday Kenya Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said that only cargo planes will be allowed to enter the country with the crew required to observe strict safety guidelines. The government further directed that individuals entering the country before the suspension takes effect will undergo mandatory quarantine at a government-designated facility at their own expense.

The Cabinet Secretary added that countries wishing to evacuate their nationals must make arrangements to do so before Wednesday, March 25, midnight.

The government issued the directive after Kenya reported increasing number of imported COVID-19 cases. The Kenyan government confirmed nine new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, March 24, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 25.

Kenya opens luxurious safari camp

Kenya has opened a luxurious safari camp for those wishing to enjoy comfortable accommodation while experiencing nature in the wild.

Last week, the nation opened the doors of a new safari camp to travellers, which has luxury as its main theme. The Olare Mara Kempinski Masai Mara offers a chance for luxury seeking safari-tourists to enjoy modern amenities while enjoying Africa’s experiences. The safari camp has 12 tents, five of which have twin beds and seven have been designed for double-occupancy. It is located within the Olare Orok Conservancy, known for its large number of lion prides.

The tents are built on a vast swathe of land and have an elevated deck with a private balcony. Visitors have access to unobstructed views of the Mara Plains and the Ntiakitiak River. The tents have been designed so that visitors do not lose track of their surroundings even when they are in their rooms. Each tent has bathrooms with a hair dryer and bath salts for use when soaking in the bath. There are also plush seating areas with sofas and rugs, and a comfortable four-poster bed. Newly married guests can opt for a honeymoon suite that has a private plunge pool.

The camp’s visitors can watch the resident hippos and take daily chauffeured drives into the Mara. They can also opt for authentic local food that is prepared in true African style. Many of the meals offered at the site are made from ingredients harvested from the on-site organic garden, and about 70 percent of the camp’s energy is harnessed from solar power, an added bonus for those who are eco conscious.

A three-night/four-day stay starts at $435 per night, per person. Olare Mara Kempinski Masai Mara is a one-hour flight from Nairobi, or 90 minutes from Mombasa.

Kenya Attracts British Travellers

With the withdrawal of a travel advisory for Kenya by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), a UK government agency that is responsible for the interests of UK citizens overseas, more British holidaymakers are travelling to the African country.

Tourism in Kenya had suffered badly last summer, but now visitors are returning from all over Europe, and especially from the UK.

According to the FCO, around 203,290 British nationals visited Kenya in 2011, based on Kenya Tourist Board figures. Most visits are trouble-free, and only 94 British nationals required consular assistance in Kenya between April 2011 and March 2012.

Stuart Britton, the managing director of Somak Holidays, a company that operates tours to Kenya, said, ‘It’s a new generation, five-star beach resort and we’re getting superb feedback. Our customers are also pleased with their experiences at the smaller boutique hotels, such as the Tijara Beach and Afrochic.’

However tourists to the country are advised against travelling to within 60kms of the Kenya-Somali border; or to Kiwayu and coastal areas north of Pate Island; to Garissa District; to the Eastleigh area of Nairobi; and to low income areas of Nairobi, where the threat of crime, terror attacks and kidnapping still exists.

The cost of travelling to Kenya is likely to fall with the launch of the Fastjet budget airline, which will be flying to Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The national airline, Kenya Airways, is also set to launch its own budget brand, JamboJet, which is expected to commence operations in the second half of the year.

Kenya organises cultural festival to promote tourism

Kenya is holding a cultural festival in Mombasa to attract tourists.

The event, which was launched on Wednesday, would run for four days and would provide a platform for various groups to showcase cultural events. It is expected that the event would provide a window to the rich cultural legacy of the nation and also boost tourism in the coming years. The festival is being organised by the Research Institute of Swahili Studies of Eastern Africa in association with the Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association (MCTA). The events are to be held at the Fort Jesus Museum.

The theme of the festival is ‘towards peaceful co-existence through culture to promote tourism’. Authorities devised the event in order to beat falling number of tourists and also to address concerns that the culture of the nation was not adequately being highlighted to tourists.

MCTA executive officer, Millicent Odhiambo, said, ‘What we want to spread is a message that Mombasa is safe for tourists. We are all aware the numbers into Mombasa has taken a nose dive and businesses are suffering. This will directly impact on the lives of people living in this region. The Cultural Festival, we hope, will express to the world, Coast is safe and like Lamu build it to an annual festival that attracts the world into the Mombasa county.’

The cultural festival will include more than 15 activities including a fishing competition, henna designs, poem reciting competition, traditional dances and others.

Kenya planning to increase earnings from tourism

Kenya has announced plans to increase its earnings from tourism activities.

The government of Kenya has said that it was planning to raise as much as KES100bn from tourism related activities this year. Tourism minister, Dan Mwazo, said that the nation was planning to promote itself as an important tourist destination and has planned aggressive marketing campaigns to boost its stature on the tourism world map. The minister said that the nation had earned KES98bn from tourism last year, and is now planning to increase the inflow to KES100bn this year.

The statement from the minister has come as a much-needed boost to Kenya’s tourism sector, which was recently affected by acts of terrorism that had created an impression that it was unsafe for tourists.

The minister said, ‘We have successfully marketed Kenya as the best tourist destination in the world, but security issues and poor road network threaten to reverse the gains. We intend to venture into other potential markets. Over reliance on the traditional markets will not increase tourism revenue.’ He also said that the nation’s tourism department would attract more tourists from traditional markets and increase marketing of the nation’s forest reserves. Of the 59 reserves in the nation, the government is actively marketing only five, the minister said. He also said that the government was making plans to diversify its tourism offerings.

Kenya is known for its wildlife that attracts tourists to its forests and grasslands. Home to lions, leopards and hyenas, the Masai Mara national reserve witnesses the yearly migration of wildebeests from the Serengeti plains in Tanzania, to Kenya via the Mara River. The migration is a spectacular event that has been popular with tourists who mostly come to Kenya from the US, UK Germany and France.

In a related development, Kenyan scientists have called upon their government to tap the potential of the nation’s prehistoric fossils to boost the tourism industry.

The nation has become famous for the discovery of Turkana boy, a nearly complete skeleton of a hominid who died in the early Pleistocene era. It is claimed to be the most complete skeleton of our human ancestors so far discovered.

 

Travelling to Kenya – the smart person’s choice

Tourism is now Kenya’s largest foreign exchange earning sector and has helped to position the country as the largest economy in East and Central Africa.

For the indigenous tribes, tourism has brought the opportunity for employment which has provided a lifeline following the introduction of intensive farming as the tribes were stripped of their lands making it increasingly difficult to follow a traditional nomadic lifestyle as livestock ranching expanded.  Investment in infrastructure has been heavy to accommodate tourists and this has also increased industrial and agricultural growth.

Tourism raises awareness of the declining population numbers of wildlife and funds conservation activity in the region.  This has resulted in increased media coverage building the awareness on a global scale.

The vast influx of tourists and tour operators is not without its downsides though and it is the negative impacts of tourism which are often dismissed but pose a real threat.

In the 1960’s there was only 1 lodge and 100 beds in the Mara ecosystem – fast forward to 2011 and there are now over 100 camps and lodges within the Masai Mara Reserve and along its boundaries which equates to over 4,000 beds.  This figure is still increasing as a safari holiday becomes more and more popular.  The potential to have 4,000 tourists in the region who are all looking to spot the best wildlife has resulted in too many vehicles crowding the animals as well as spoiling the visitor experience.

The reality is no longer the ‘Out of Africa’ experience people expect, rather more a glorified safari park with hoards of tourists and minibuses.

The vehicles erode the land, disrupt and scare the animals and pollute the air.  The luxury lodges leave a permanent blot on the landscape and the swimming pools and hot tubs steal water from an area prone to drought.  Restaurants have altered birds feeding habits and monkeys now scavenge from bins.

The luxury safari camps are owned and run by foreign investors who make a healthy profit from the camps and are under no obligation to plough the money back into local development.  Locals are employed at minimum wage offering them little opportunity to afford education or healthcare.

The current situation is far from the rosy picture often painted of the tourist industry in Kenya however it doesn’t have to remain this way.

Porini Ecotourism is a Kenyan company founded by Kenyan national Jake Grieves-Cook.  All of Porini’s safari camps operate under the ‘Conservancy Concept’.   This is a new model of safari- tourism which benefits the locals, the wildlife and the tourists.

A quick outline is:

  • A conservancy is an area of at least 7,000 acres of community owned land made of individual parcels leased from the owners and set aside exclusively for wildlife
  • Payment to locals is by acre, not per tourist, and is made monthly regardless of tourist numbers and is paid directly to every individual landowner and not via a central committee
  • The lease is paid by the safari operators who operate the tourism activities in the conservancy
  • There is a maximum density of 1 tent per 700 acres and normally a maximum of 12 tents per camp
  • The area is vacated by the owners who remove all homesteads and livestock bomas
  • Grazing of domestic livestock and cattle incursions are controlled.
  • The conservancy is managed by a warden and rangers whose costs are covered by the safari company

The tangible benefits of a conservancy are numerous and offer a real and viable alternative to the current safari-tourism model.  The benefits of the conservancy concept are as follows:

  • The Masai see the benefits of tourism and it provides a profitable alternative to animal husbandry.
  • No more over grazing in the conservancy so grass and vegetation recovers
  • Virtually no poaching or wildlife killing within the community owned conservancies
  • Warden and rangers to protect the wildlife in the conservancy
  • Continued ownership of the land by the community as it is leased
  • Camp staff, guides and rangers are all drawn from the families of the Masai landowners
  • Small intimate eco-camps where the focus is on guiding and the safari experience
  • Wildlife viewing without the crowds or minivans
  • Guiding by KPSGA qualified Masai guides

This concept has been proven to work and in the Selenkay Conservancy elephants have returned after an absence of over 20 years.

If you want to make an informed decision and use your holiday to help support both the wildlife and local community of Kenya then consider one of the four Porini Camps.  If you’re unsure a quick look on TripAdvisor should persuade you as each camp is rated 5 star and Porini Mara Camp won TripAdvisor Travellers Choice 2012.  One customer wrote:

’The Porini Camps Concept of engaging the Maasai in gainfully using their land as a conservancy has allowed wildlife to return in large numbers.  Moreover, it has allowed the Maasai to step into the 21st century whilst staying in touch with their roots and yet earning a modern wage.

From the point of view of the tourist, you get an authentic experience of the African bush and its peoples, whilst staying in camps that have most of the creature comforts that urban mankind has got used to.  The drives are individual and off the beaten track, the guides are English speaking Maasai who naturally have an intimate knowledge of their land.

In brief, the Porini people are the flip side of the parasitic tour operator.’’

As tourists we need to be aware of the impact of our choices, and through a unique Kenya safari experience you can help to support a model which will protect this environment for future generations.

Virgin Atlantic to End Kenya Flights

Virgin Atlantic, a UK-based airline company, is to end all of its services between London and Kenya from September this year.

The London to Kenya service, which has been in operation for the last five years, is being axed due to rising fuel costs and falling passenger numbers, according to Virgin Atlantic’s president, Sir Richard Branson. However, it has been confirmed that customers who have already booked flights with the airline after the September 23 deadline outbound, and the final return from Nairobi the following day, will be given a full refund or moved to an alternative carrier.

Alternative airline options for passengers to Nairobi include British Airways, KLM, Emirates and Air France.

Commenting on his company’s decision to axe the Kenya flights, Sir Richard Branson said that he was saddened by the decision and added, ‘A combination of record fuel prices, higher and higher taxes imposed by the Government and a poorly timed slot not providing connections from London, have made it uneconomical to fly from Nairobi. Governments must be more realistic about the aviation taxes they impose and we urgently need to increase capacity at Heathrow.’

In addition to fuel costs, which have increased by 50 percent in the last five years, and an increase in Air Passenger Duty of 100 percent, civil unrest in the country and high-profile kidnapping cases have further hit Kenya’s tourism, with a subsequent reduction in air traffic.

Virgin Atlantic will be replacing the axed flights with new flights to Mumbai in India and an additional flight to New York from the autumn.