By John Ikani
Kenya celebrated the arrival of its first group of international tourists on Friday, marking a significant step in its effort to attract more visitors through a simplified entry process.
The immigration services department announced the arrival of the “maiden visa-free arrivals” from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with more expected in the coming days.
Julius Bitok, the Principal Secretary for Immigration and Citizen Services, revealed that Kenya has eliminated visa requirements for all travellers, regardless of their nationality.
The novel approach involves an online application for an electronic travel authorization (ETA), accompanied by a $30 (€27) processing fee.
“Right now, visitors from all corners of the world, including Africa, Asia, America, Australia, and beyond, can enjoy a visa-free entry,” Bitok stated during the launch event held at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
President William Ruto had previously announced Kenya’s ambition to become a “visa-free country,” with the relaxation of existing requirements set to take effect in January.
However, as of last Tuesday, the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority cautioned that the new ETA system was still in the developmental and implementation stages.
In 2022, the number of tourist arrivals reached 1.54 million, though this figure remains below pre-Covid pandemic levels, according to data from the tourism ministry.
Despite this, Francis Gichaba, Chair of the Kenya Tourism Board, expressed optimism in November that the annual tourist count could surpass two million in the current financial year, exceeding the 2019 figure of 1.9 million.