December 15, 2006 (Minneapolis, MN) — Virgin Atlantic Airways has just announced that it will be launching daily services between London Heathrow and Nairobi starting June 1, 2007. The services will be operated by an Airbus A340-300 aircraft holding 240 seats.

Kenya's tourist arrivals have been growing at an average annual rate of 10% for the past several years and are expected to increase an additional 5% in 2007.

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KTB Chairman, Jake Grieves-Cook said of Virgin Atlantic's latest move: “The new Virgin Atlantic service is very welcome news for Kenya’s tourism industry and this will give a huge boost to our marketing in our two biggest source markets, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Virgin brand has a strong following and its daily flights into Nairobi will offer a premium quality service for the upper end of the market that we seek to attract to Kenya.”

The UK is Kenya's number one tourist source market contributing 20% of total international arrivals. This presents an opportunity for Virgin Atlantic to tap into the great tourism potential in this market. Additionally, London is a gateway for many travelers from the U.S.A. (the second largest source market for Kenya, contributing 10% of total international arrivals).

With Virgin Atlantic flying into London Gatwick or London Heathrow airports by way of a variety of flights from the United States, the doors open even wider for the American tourism market to reach Kenya. Currently, the airline has flights departing from Boston, Las Vegas, Miami, New York (JFK and Newark), San Francisco, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Orlando into London.

Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, commented, “Around 500,000 people fly to Nairobi each year to enjoy the beautiful Kenyan scenery and wildlife it has to offer at its outstanding game reserves with large numbers of passengers also flying to and from America, via London. It is also the leading hub for east Africa providing a gateway for the whole of East Africa and the India Ocean and Nairobi is an important city in its own right with many international institutions based there.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Kenya Tourist Board for helping Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays to achieve its goal of starting operations to Nairobi and we look forward to working with them closely in the next few years to promote travel to the region.”

Welcoming the positive news, Dr Ongong'a Achieng, the Kenya Tourist Board Managing Director said, "We are delighted by Virgin Atlantic's decision to fly to Kenya next year. This announcement is a result of several months of discussion between Kenya Tourist Board and Virgin Atlantic and is set to strengthen the long established business links between the UK and Kenya." He added, "The increased capacity presents us with an opportunity to expose our unique tourism product to the different segments of Virgin Atlantic's customers."

"We are pleased that Virgin Atlantic has chosen Kenya," said the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Ms. Rebecca Nabutola. "The announcement by Virgin Atlantic has come at a time when our tourism industry is on an upward trend and demand for the destination is continuing to grow. The entry of Virgin Atlantic into the market will address the capacity challenge we have been facing."