With Kenya abolishing visa requirements for global citizens effective January 1, 2024, the country is now seeking to implement the Open Skies Policy to increase tourism and international trade.
The open skies policy was adopted in the 90s by the United States but most countries have been cautious of implementing it since it significantly weakens national airlines at the expense of foreign airlines.
The policy which is mostly championed by the private sector in the aviation industry allows airlines to freely access international routes competing competitively for passengers.
In Kenya, the government through the Transport Ministry headed by Kipchumba Murkomen has been encouraging international airlines to use Moi International Airport in Mombasa and other regional airports as a way of implementing the open skies policy.
An aerial photo of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
Kenya Ports Authority
Full implementation of the program will see foreign airlines break regulatory barriers and reduce President William Ruto’s government involvement in airline decision-making.
The implementation of the policy is in line with President Ruto’s promise to make Kenya the ideal country for foreign investments.
On Sunday, January 14, President William Ruto promised that he would enhance the country’s infrastructure to make Kenya a top investment destination.
This was in line with his speech on December 15, during the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in the United States.
With visa abolishment and open airlines, Kenya is expected to record a significant increase in the number of tourists visiting the country which will subsequently translate into increased foreign exchange earnings.
“This will lead to the growth of the hospitality and tourism sector, creation of jobs directly and indirectly, and the revitalisation of the economies of the City of Mombasa and the region at large,” Murkomen spoke on January 17, after opening the Moi International Airport to one of the international airlines.
In the spirit of the open skies policy, Murkomen remarked that it was hinged on the visa-free policy as this was an encouragement to key players in the aviation industry.
He added that Kenya was going to benefit from this arrangement through increased tourist arrivals, job creation and overall economic growth.
The downside of such an agreement is that Ruto’s government will find it hard to protect the national carrier from competition.
Entry of international airlines offering cheaper rates will mean that the national carrier will face stiff competition from well-established players.
President William Ruto during talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at Washington DC on December 15, 2022