By Njenga Hakeenah
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) has achieved the Last Point of Departure status allowing JKIA to facilitate direct flights between Kenya and the US.
Following the announcement between President Uhuru Kenyatta and US President Donald Trump, Kenya Airways (KQ) will now fly directly to the US with the first flight scheduled to depart on October 28, 2018.
This development opens up new opportunities for Kenyans in Travel, Trade and Commerce.
"This is a major achievement for Kenya as JKIA becomes one of the elite African airports to be certified as a last point of departure to the United States. JKIA is now poised to become the premier hub in Africa," said Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) Managing Director, Jonny Andersen.
Group operations director for Luxury hotel brand Hemingways Collection Ross Evans said in January that the scheduled Kenya Airways daily flights between Nairobi and New York would boost business for local businesses and leisure tourism.
"We also expect this to boost the corporate market with Nairobi strengthening its position as a regional hub for corporate travel. Along with the direct routes, the actual flight times have been well thought out with both legs being overnight flights," said Evans.
Tourism numbers are expected to grow this year with the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) indicating that tourist arrivals from the US grew by 16.3 per cent to 95,771 between January and October last year.
In 2016, 82,363 visitors were recorded visiting the country in the same period.
During his visit to the US on the invitation of President Trump, President Kenyatta met several corporate heads who were interested to invest in Kenya.
Already, two US companies have committed to invest $238 million in projects diversifying investors in the country where the Chinese have dominated.
Increased confidence from foreign visitors and reduced flight times to and from the US mean that travellers to both countries will have more time to spend on productive activities rather than in the waiting lounges on connecting flights.
The good news continues since Nairobi was ranked number three in the 2018 Top Travel Destinations by Trip Advisor under its annual Travellers' Choice awards.
KQ's flights will operate daily in non-stop flights to New York terminating at the John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). The airline began selling tickets for its new route in January.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is among those expected to be on the maiden trip in a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner which will serve the new route.
Kenya Airways becomes the fifth non-stop airline to fly between Africa and JFK Airport after South Africa, Ethiopia, Cape Verde and Nigeria.