In a bid to enhance tourism, Kenya implemented a significant policy change on January 1st, abolishing traditional visas for all travelers entering the country. Instead, visitors are now required to secure an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) online, 72 hours before their arrival. President William Ruto had announced this measure at the end of the preceding year, aiming to streamline the entry process.
Kenyan authorities reported that nearly 10,000 individuals have already applied for an ETA, with over 4,000 applications processed. The nation aspires to attract a substantial increase in tourists, with the goal of reaching 4.5 million visitors by 2027, effectively multiplying the current figure by 200.
However, the new system has encountered criticism, particularly on social media platforms, as many travelers express concerns about what they perceive as a shift from a $50 visa to a $30 electronic authorization. Notably, citizens from approximately fifty countries, including African nations such as Ghana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, who previously enjoyed visa exemptions, now find themselves obligated to pay for the ETA.
Mohamed Hersi, former spokesperson for the Kenyan Tourism Federation, voiced apprehension about the complexity introduced by the ETA system, citing the multitude of online questions that visitors must navigate.
In addition to the visa reform, the authorities opted to double the entrance fees to national parks, which stand as the country’s primary tourist attractions, effective January 1st. This decision has sparked further controversy, with critics arguing that the $20 savings on visa fees provide little consolation to tourists.
“The tourists are not easily deceived, and the $20 savings on the visa are a meager compensation,” concluded a Kenyan hotelier.
Despite the controversy, Kenya remains optimistic about the positive impact of these reforms on its tourism industry, aiming for a significant surge in visitor numbers over the next few years. The intersection of economic considerations and traveler sentiment will undoubtedly shape the success and reception of these policy changes in the months to come.