Visiting Kenya In 2024- What Every Traveller Needs To Know

By Alisa S January 15, 2024

In an interesting turn of events for travelers to Kenya, one of Africa’s most cherished tourism hotspots, the country’s government has recently altered its entry requirements. Notably recognized for its enchanting attractions like balloon rides over the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya has always been a magnet for international tourists. However, a recent announcement by the Kenyan government has introduced a significant change in the visa policy, stirring mixed reactions among travelers and industry experts.

image credit: Sneha Cecil / Unsplash

Previously, tourists needed to obtain a visa, which could cost upwards of $51, but the new regulation has replaced this requirement with an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) costing $34. While at first glance this appears to be a move towards easing travel, the underlying details reveal a more complex scenario. The ETA mandates that all visitors, including those from countries that previously enjoyed free entry, apply online at least three days before travel, paying the fee as a processing charge. This shift has sparked considerable debate and dissatisfaction, particularly on social media platforms, where travelers and industry professionals have expressed concerns about the impact on tourism.

The policy, effective from early January 2024, has been seen by some as a contradiction to Kenyan President William Ruto’s vision of a borderless Africa. Critics argue that the new system, requiring advance application and processing time, could deter spontaneous and frequent travelers, such as business visitors. For instance, Jones Ntaukira, a frequent business traveler and startup founder from Malawi, expressed his displeasure over the cumbersome process, emphasizing that the issue is not the fee but the inconvenience of the new system.

Another aspect of the policy that has come under scrutiny is the change in rules for children. In the past, children under 16 from certain countries were exempt from the visa fee, but under the new system, this exemption seems to have been removed. This change, along with the overall process, is feared to potentially dissuade tourists, raising questions about its impact on Kenya’s goal of attracting 5.5 million visitors annually in the coming four years.

The policy has also been critiqued for being one of the most stringent in Africa, disguised as a travel liberalization effort. Industry experts like aviation executive Sean Mendis have voiced concerns over the long-term implications for Kenyan tourism, suggesting that the policy might not be as beneficial as envisioned.

Despite these concerns, Kenyan authorities maintain that the ETA is a positive step, aimed at creating a fair, fast, and reliable system that caters to the country’s security and strategic interests. In an effort to balance regional interests, citizens from the East African Community (EAC) have been temporarily exempted from the ETA, with plans underway to incorporate EAC travel documents into the system.

image credit: Sneha Cecil / Unsplash

In conclusion, while the introduction of the ETA in Kenya is a step towards modernizing and standardizing travel procedures, its execution and reception highlight the complexities involved in balancing tourism growth with administrative and security concerns. As the tourism industry and travelers adapt to this new policy, its actual impact on Kenya’s tourism landscape remains to be seen.