By Marc Nkwame
Arusha — FOLLOWING the repeated ban by Kenya against Tanzanian registered vehicles which are now being prevented from entering Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi, players in the tourism industry here say things should now be left as they are.
“Kenya is a sovereign state and if they feel their decision is right then we, as tour operators respect the country’s wishes because we cannot force them to do what we want, it is now left for our government to also do something on our side,” said Mr Sirili Akko, the Executive of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) with over 500 members on board.
Mr Sirili admitted that the move has negatively affected some of TATO members operations and that it was time for them to put their heads together and see what can be done now and in future.
Other tour operators are suggesting that Tanzanian companies should enter into jointventure with Kenyan tour firms, as it was the case of Rangers Safaris of Arusha which once struck agreement with the Nairobi- based Pollmans Tours and Safaris, which means where local cars are being barred in Kenya, the other company will take over, including airports.
But Mr Jones Willbard, a businessman of Arusha, feels that Tanzanian shuttle operators, who are highly affected by the Kenyan Airport ban, should register some of their buses in Kenya.
“The Metro Bus Company of Dar es Salaam, for instance, has some of its coaches bearing Kenyan registration numbers and it was the same case with the former Scandinavian Transport Company,” he said, adding that it will help shuttles that need to drop passengers at JKIA to drive there unhampered.
An average of 250,000 travellers from Tanzania use JKIA as their portal to International Destinations every year. There are at least five shuttle bus companies from Tanzania that ferry passengers between Moshi, Arusha and Nairobi via Jomo Kenyatta Airport (Embakassy) and all of them were badly affected by the move.
Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) located just 350 kilometres from JKIA handles nearly 700,000 travellers per year which means with proper planning, Tanzania may not even need JKIA.
When the ban was announced recently, Shuttle Operator, Mr Paulo Ole Sadomaki, said they were being forced to drop passengers along Nairobi-Mombasa road, then the travellers get compelled to hire taxi-cabs from the junction to the airport, the exchange has caused many delays, lost baggage and missed flights.
Of late the operators themselves started hiring taxis to pick the passengers from the highway to the Airport to avoid inconveniences and this added cost to their ticket billing.
“We have been harassed very much by security officials at the JKIA as they ask where our clients come from. When they say they hail from Tanzania they are harassed and asked why they did not fly through the Kilimanjaro (KIA) or Julius Nyerere International Airports (JNIA),” said Mr Mosses King’ori of Riverside Shuttle Services.
Another driver, Mr Assey Faustin, noted that there were times when security officials warned them that their vehicles would be stopped from entering Kenya altogether.
The Director of River Side Shuttle, Mr Kingori, said the action affected his business beyond expectations. His clients from Europe and America cancelled their safaris because of the uncertainty of travelling through Kenya, he explained.