Kenya Airways. Picture: REUTERS
Kenya Airways. Picture: REUTERS

Mombasa — Kenya plans discussions with low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet to begin flying to the East African nation famous for its beaches and safaris, its tourism minister said.

Tourism is one of the country’s biggest generators of foreign exchange after remittances and agricultural exports, and earned the nation 119,9-billion shillings ($1.2bn) in 2017, said the Kenya Tourism Board.

"We are developing a strategy to encourage low-cost carriers from the UK to fly here," tourism secretary Najib Balala said in Mombasa. "I will be looking to start discussions with Ryanair and easyJet."

If Balala’s talks are successful, the coastal city will be the first sub-Saharan African destination for both carriers. Mombasa’s airport is the country’s second-biggest after Nairobi’s, with many tourists seeking the region’s sun and sand. Kenya is also famed for its wildlife.

The UK, a hub for both carriers, is Kenya’s biggest source of tourists so far this year after the US, Balala said, followed by India, China and Germany. As many as 16% of arrivals were now from other African countries, he said.

Kenya expects visitor numbers to climb by 18% this year, boosted by improved security and infrastructure and global hotel brands expanding there, Balala said. In 2017, arrivals grew 10% to almost 1-million tourists, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Kenya Airways will introduce direct flights to the US in October and plans to add as many as 20 new destinations in the next five years.