Qatar Airways is targeting direct flights between Italy and Malindi as it seeks to deepen its footprint in Kenya.
This was disclosed on Monday in a meeting between delegation of senior Qatar government officials and President Uhuru Kenyatta in which the airline officials said all is set for the December 9 Doha-Mombasa direct flights.
If launched, the Italy-Malindi flights will be the first direct flight linking Milan and Malindi, a move with potential to lift tourism numbers in the resort towns of Malindi and Watamu in Kilifi County. This could also hot up competition for Zanzibar, which already enjoys direct flights to Milan.
In the absence of direct flights to Malindi, tourists have to spend eight to nine hours from Milan to Nairobi or Mombasa then travel by road for hours from Moi International Airport to Malindi town.
The government has committed Sh1.5 billion for expansion of Malindi Airport Runway from the current 1.4 kilometres to 2.5 kilometres and already completed first phase of compensation to families whose land will be used for the project.
During the State House meeting, Mr Kenyatta welcomed Doha-Mombasa direct flights asking Qatari investors to consider opportunities created by the government’s Big 4 agenda particularly in public transport and hospitality sectors.
“As you shop around for investment opportunities, be assured that the Government is ready and committed to supporting investors from your country to set up in Kenya,” said President Kenyatta.
Tourism sector investors in Malindi, including Italian billionaire Flavio Briatore, have previously urged the government to introduce direct flights to Malindi from Europe in order to ease travel.
According to the 2018 Economic Survey, The number of tourists visiting Malindi marine fell to 37,600 from the high of 421,900 in 2013.
Hotels’ night bed occupancy in Kilifi, Malindi and Lamu dropped to 100,700 from 113,900 in the previous year even as those of Mombasa Island soared from 197,200 to 209,000.