Tanzania and Kenya finally made headway in resolving their dispute concerning the ban on Tanzanian tour service vehicles from accessing Jomo Kenyatta International airport.
The Tour operators and other major players in tourism industry in Arusha and Kilimanjaro Region are very relieved and have hailed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism for reaching an agreement with the Kenyan government to lift the controversial ban on Tanzania’s motor vehicles to cross the border for picking tourists to and from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
Many of them had incurred big losses during 25 days of the ban as their businesses were entirely paralyzed and urged the two governments to avoid repetition of the damaging decisions not only to Tanzania but the East African region as a whole.
“I had to bring in tourists by spending over Sh300,000 on taxi cars as an alternative to using my company’s vehicles that would have been rented to fetch me over Sh300,000 every day,” said tour operator Mathew Mollel, the Director of Rainbow Shuttle.
According to him, the 25-day saga brought shock waves, fear and confusion among both foreign tourists and tour operators, citing incidents of gunpoint orders by the Kenyan Police to drop guests from the Rainbow Shuttle cars right at the entrance to JKIA.
“Visitors especially tourists were frightened and some had to delay catching their flights,” he said.
“What happened was not only going to damage Tanzania’s tourism sector alone, but the whole tourism industry in East African countries, ” said the River Side Shuttle Director, Mosses Kingori.
On Friday last week, the Kenyan government allowed Tanzania tour operators to enter the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to pick and drop tourists following the discussions reached between the two countries on Thursday.
The decision was made after a twenty six days ban of Tanzania registered vehicles by Kenyan government as a retaliation of the country’s stand to prohibit Kenyan tourists’ vehicles entry into its National Parks.
In a joint press conference, the Kenya cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Phyllis Kandie and Tanzanian Minister of Tourism and Natural Resources Lazaro Nyalandu told reporters that vehicle from Tanzania will now be allowed to enter JKIA to pick and drop tourists as the two countries await the disputes to be finally resolved within 21 days as from Thursday.
Minister Nyalandu said the historical ties between the two countries would have averted Kenyan government from imposing such a ban.
Speaking to tour operators last week, Nyalandu was quoted as saying the Kenya’s government act of banning Tanzania vehicles entering JKIA to pick up tourists entering the country was seen as retaliation for its stand of refusing to open the northern Serengeti Park border. Tourism in Tanzania which has been quite disrupted by the drama surrounding the ban, should continue undisturbed now, and client traveling from Kenya for Tanzania safaris get to enjoy their travel as well.
Lifting of the ban which was effected on 22 December 2014, is definitely a relief for both tour operators and their clients. Perhaps I safe to say that Tanzania will not be retaliating in kind since the situation is being resolved quite amicably.