The Tourism ministry has said Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is likely to attain Category One status and start receiving direct flights from the US by early February.

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The statement is hinged on the last audits conducted at the facility by the Federation of Aviation Administration (FAA) authorities in May.

Tourism secretary Najib Balala said direct flights from the US would boost Kenya’s bid to raise visits to beaches, cities and wildlife sanctuaries which have suffered on the back of past terrorism attacks in the region.

“We expect the direct flights to start by early next year,” said Mr Balala.

The FAA officials who completed audit on safety systems and management at the JKIA three months ago are expected to communicate their finding under its International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme.

It is under the IASA that FAA determines whether a country’s oversight of its air carriers that seek to operate into the US complies with safety standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

If the recent audit find that Kenya has complied, then the FAA will set a date for the final audit of the airport before Kenya is declared a Category One country.

Mr Balala announced that Kenya will host the 2017 American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) event dubbed destination Expo 2017 which will bring to Kenya nearly 4,000 travel agents to Nairobi for the week-long symposium.

BOOST FOR KENYA

smartKenya_JKIA_business class“It is a big boost for Kenya. We held WTO2015, UNCTAD2016, AGRA2016, ICT2016 and now Kenya has won the bid to host ASTA 2017,” he said adding this was ASTA’s second meet in Africa after its earlier meet held in South Africa.

He said this would enable the agents understand what they are selling to tourists as well as help create direct links between the tour operators and Kenyan hotel operators.

Kenya has undertaken massive improvements within Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with an all-round fence as well as enhanced round the clock security with CCTV cameras added to reaffirm the country’s commitment to making the airport precincts safe as per the requirements of FAA leading to award of a CAT 1 status.

The country’s successful bid to host the global event was launched at ASTA’s meet in Seville, Spain last August where ASTA members unanimously endorsed it.

The ceremony held at a Nairobi hotel was also attended by ASTA Kenya President Samson Some, American Ambassador Bob Godec and local hoteliers as well as tour travel agents.

The United States is a major tourist market for Kenya after UK and ASTA global meet could bring good tidings since ASTA members will become direct ambassadors to Kenya’s tourism dream.

The agents will also have a firsthand opportunity to visit wildlife sanctuaries, sample hotels and beaches as well as city monuments which are key attractions in any country.

Mr Balala said exhibitors and other participants now have time to participate in the expo as the registration is open until October 1.