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End-year festivities fire up holiday travel rush

Steve Umidha @steveumidha

Local tourism and travel is looking up going as the festive mood sets in with recreational facilities and transport sector recording surge in demand. This time round, the soaring demand which is normally witnessed in December is said to be compounded by tension following a grueling campaign period, occasioned by a repeat presidential election.

A spot check by People Daily yesterday revealed that most bus companies and airlines are fully booked for local travel. Nairobi’s ‘Machakos Bus Station’ was a hub of activities as hundreds of travellers lined up to book tickets as others took off to various destinations in Western, Rift Valley, Nyanza, Eastern and Coast regions.

Those who were not lucky had to wait for vehicles to return for their chances to travel. This will get worse as Christmas Day draws closer. This have given brisk business to the “seven seater vehicles” which are taking advantage of heightened travel to make a killing charging slightly higher than the buses. They are charging about Sh1,000 for a trip that would normally cost Sh800.

“People were in a lockdown state after the elections. This break was like a bubble waiting to pop up. It just popped up,” says Simon Kabu chief executive of local travel agency, Bonfire Adventures. The gush started being felt when the transport sector raised the alarm mid-December that the popular Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) service was fully booked up to next year.

Considered the cheapest, fastest and most convenient means to Mombasa and its environs, the SGR train charges a minimum of Sh700 for a one-way trip to Mombasa and a maximum of Sh3,000 for first class riders.

With the SGR fully booked up to next year most travellers to the coast will opt for buses, air travel, personal and hired vehicles to travel to the coastal towns. “Right now, to get a flight one would pay between Sh25,000 and Sh35,000 for a return ticket that usually goes for between Sh8,000 and Sh10,000,” says Kabu of Bonfire Adventures.

Travellers will have to part with charges as high as Sh2,500 for a VIP tickets on buses such as Mash Cool Gold Class plying Nairobi-Mombasa route. Budget carrier JamboJet has been forced to introduce additional flights to the coastal cities to cash in on the high demand for customers.

JamboJet Chief Executive Willem Hondius says there has been a surge in demand for air travel forcing the airline to increase flights to Malindi, Mombasa and Ukunda to three, four and three flights per week, respectively.

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