Industry players expect visa-free agreement between SA and Kenya to boost tourism and trade

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Following the signing of an agreement on visa waiver between the governments of Kenya and South Africa, industry stakeholders in both countries have expressed optimism about how the agreement will stimulate tourism between the countries.

Kenya and South Africa signed a mutual visa-free agreement earlier this year, to tackle the long-standing hurdles that come with acquiring a visa to either country. The agreement was reached between South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa and Dr. William Ruto of Kenya on the latter’s first official visit to South Africa. The agreement allows Kenyan nationals visa-free entry to South Africa for up to 90 days per calendar year and vice versa.

In a joint communique issued, both Presidents agreed to this policy move to ease the movement of people between the two countries.

Reacting to the agreement, the Chief Operating Officer of South African Tourism, Nomasonto Ndlovu, said “Our relentless lobbying for visa-free travel between Kenya and South Africa has yielded such great results. This is a boon for intra-Africa travel, and we welcome the news of visa-free travel between Kenya and South Africa.”

In an interview with Mohammed Hersi, Chairman of the Diani Hospitality Owners Association he expressed his excitement over this laudable feat, stating that it would reduce some of the bottlenecks of travelling between the two countries.

Mohammed Hersi

“The fact that we now have visa-free between Kenya and South Africa is a very good thing because getting a visa to South Africa from Kenya was not easy. While Kenya has a process for you to get the Kenyan Visa, it was not as difficult as getting a South African Visa. So, what that meant was that the movement from South Africa to Kenya was on the lower side while equally from down South wasn’t as easy as we would have loved it to be.

The initiative according to him would be a noteworthy contribution to Kenya and South Africa being the leading economies in East Africa and Southern Africa respectively. This alliance, according to him will bolster these economies and facilitate trade.

“And considering that these are two big economies in South Africa and East Africa, it is a good pointer that, that is the way to go, we need to make it easy for our own people to travel with each other,” he concluded.

The CEO of Africa Tourism Partners and convener of Africa Tourism Leadership Forum (ATLF) Kwakye Donkor in an interview with Tourism Update said the visa-free entry for Kenyans to South Africa from the start of this year is a long-overdue and crucial step forward in connecting two of the continent’s tourism and economic powerhouses.

“These are two of the powerhouses of their regions. This initiative will be highly beneficial for strengthening the ties between East Africa and southern Africa by easing the flow of intra-Africa trade and boosting tourism,” said Donkor.

Lydia Kinyua Njoki, a tourism professional and hospitality consultant adds that this initiative is expected to boost the number of travelers and tourists in these countries going forward. According to her, it will also encourage tour operators to come up with innovative, interesting, and experience-filled packages for tourists who visit South Africa and Kenya.

She further added “South Africa has opened up to Kenya, a visa-free that is valid for 90 days. It is going to allow people to travel more and explore the opportunities that abound”

In 2019, the number of Kenyan visitors to South Africa was 30 329 representing 3.9%, Between January and August 2022, 12 103 visitors from Kenya arrived in SA marking an increase of a whopping 201% when compared to the same period in 2021. This number is poised to increase with this development of visa-free travel.

This pact is one of the initiatives aimed at boosting intra-africa travel and the sector looks forward to such progressive policies in the future.

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