Kenya’s tourism stakeholders on Monday lauded the government’s decision to introduce an on-line Visa application for tourists visiting the country, saying the move will ease movement of tourists.


The rules, which were introduced on July 1, require visitors to have already acquired an electronic visa by the time they get into the country. Under the new rules, visa charges will be paid through a credit or debit card and not at point of entry as was before.

Unlike in the past when many foreign travellers were able to get their visa on arrival in the country either in Nairobi or Mombasa, visitors to Kenya will now have to apply for an e-Visa in advance, with processing days taking as much as a week.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast branch CEO Sam Ikwaye said the introduction of on-line visa is a good move that will now ensure faster processing of visas without inconveniencing visitors.

“For longest time, our business has been done in traditional way with a lot of paperwork, resulting to incidents where tourists complaining of delays, harassment and corruption case upon arrival, ” Ikwaye told Xinhua on Monday.
The on-line, or eVisa application system, which affect all passport holders started on July 1, will significantly streamline the processing and issuance of visas for foreign nationals visiting Kenya.

Upon successful completion, the applicant will receive an eVisa via e-mail. Upon arrival in Kenya, the traveller should show the eVisa to officials at the port of entry where a hard-copy visa will then be endorsed in the passport.
The government has given a two-month transition position, until the e-visas become compulsory from Sept. 1 when visitors will be required to register for their e-visa in advance. Approval for the e-visa can take up to seven days.

The manual system that has been in place for application and issuance of visa will run concurrently with the eVisa system for the next two months until Sept. 1 when it will be phased out.
Ikwaye said that the hoteliers will use this as a new tool for marketing Kenya as a destination in the country’s source markets.

Kenya’s main source markets include Germany, China, France, and the U.S. among others. The country is also wooing tourists from the Middle East, Russia, Italy and parts of Africa to increase international arrivals and boost the industry’s growth.

Ikwaye advised the government to phase out the manual process with time to enable the visitors and other tourism players to adjust to the new technology.

“The challenge of transition period must be considered, so that the government can cater for tourists who can’t access on-line platform to give them time to adjust to the new initiative,” Ikwaye said, adding that the stakeholders should embrace the new technology to target high number of tourists.
The new rules announced last week caught many travelers, and in particular, tour operators and travel agencies abroad unaware. The rules will see many destinations now reprint their brochures to adopt the new requirements as well as the changes.

Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association Vice chairman Mohamed Hersi, however, urged the government must consult all stakeholders before implementing the new visa application procedure.
Hersi said reliable elderly visitors might be locked out in the new eVisa.

“There is a serious confusion regarding eVsa, a great idea badly executed. We are recommending that both on-line and manual visas are made available,” Hersi told Xinhua in Mombasa.
“Many repeated elderly visitors to Kenya will not be able to apply on-line and they are the ones who stay the longest,” he added.

However, Kenya has assured tourists and other foreign nationals visiting the East African nation that there will be not disruption to their visa applications because the two systems will run alongside each in their initial period to ensure a smooth transition for all stakeholders.

Sources said the new rules were also aimed at keeping terrorists or unwanted characters out of Kenya and curb the potential rise in arrivals of radicals from Western nations who may wish to join terrorist organizations in neighboring Somalia.

Kenya has been the target of the Somali-based Al-Shabaab militants, who have in recent years carried our several attacks mostly at the coastal town of Mombasa and in the northeastern region near the border with Somalia. Enditem


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