Skies over Tanzania’s northern tourist circuit will see more flights as Qatar and Kenya Airways are both commencing flight services to the Kilimanjaro International Airport next month.
Qatar Airways will start daily flights from Doha to KIA on July 1, while Kenya Airways expects to follow suit the following day, to land tourists at the closest point to view northern circuit game and ecological attractions.
The launch of Qatar flights at KIA comes at the onset of the tourism high season. Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said this week that the airline would serve KIA with an Airbus A320 via Nairobi.
Kenya Airways group managing director Titus Naikuni said KQ has added KIA to its regular destinations starting July 2, with six flights a week until September 30, rising to daily flights from October 1.
"Kilimanjaro is a strategic destination for the region owing to the vibrant tourism circuit in the hinterland including the Serengeti," said Naikuni.
Kilimanjaro Airport Development Company (KADCO) director of finance and corporate services Bakari Murusuri said these lucrative deals implyan increased number of international arrivals at the airport. Arrivals have consistently grown by about 15 per cent annually since 2003, making the KIA currently serve about 650,000 passengers annually.
“Qatar and KQ Airways join other major airlines such as KLM, Edelweiss Air, Condor Air, Rwanda Air and Ethiopian Airlines to fly to the northern tourist circuit,” Murusuri explained.
Marco van de Kreeke, chief executive officer of KADCO, a company which runs KIA, said Qatar Airways will link Tanzania with the Middle East, India, China and other Asian destinations.
“Daily flights to Doha will stimulate growth and help KIA realize its mission of becoming the most ideal gateway to the northern tourism circuit of Tanzania,” he said, saying extension of flights to KIA was part of a wider effort, "We are happy because connections to Australia and New Zealand will also improve”.
Also tourists from Europe and America will have another option to reach Tanzania’s northern tourism circuit as Doha hub provides many connection opportunities to big capitals and cities around the world.
"For example, London which will be soon served from Doha by Qatar Airways five times a day is the biggest market source for KIA", Mr Kreeke noted. Qatar Airways comes in as a backdrop of KIA’s major repositioning with an eye to elevate the facility into a true tourists gateway, he remarked.
With increased traffic, demand for customer satisfaction, security concerns and growing competition, KADCO has found it imperative to benchmark itself with pace setting organizations, meeting and overcoming emerging challenges along the way, he said.
A $30 million transformation plan will see all runways, apron, taxiways and passenger lounge refurbished in a bid to offer holidaymakers a hassle-free trip to northern Tanzania’s tourist circuit.
Sirili Akko, Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) executive officer, was upbeat on how the direct flight will considerably promote tourism and trade between Tanzania and Middle East.
“We believe regular flight services will significantly promote tourism business, especially leisure travel, conferences and exhibitions,” he said.
The Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) managing director Dr Aloyce Nzuki said Qatar Airways will find the decision to add a daily flight to KIA to be timely.
The 300 square km tourism stretch comprises the Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Arusha, Manyara and Tarangire national parks as well as the Ngorongoro conservation area.
Qatar Airways is adding a second flight destination for Tanzania, while also extending its passenger flights to other destinations in Iraq, Myanmar and Serbia.
Qatar Airways will also be introducing new freight services to Pakistan, Oman, South Africa and South Korea, the company management noted.