Tourism and Kenyan exports to the United States, especially flowers, are expected to rise due to a deal allowing direct flights between the two countries within a year, the US envoy to Kenya said on Thursday.
Transport ministers from both countries signed an 'Open Skies' deal in the United States last week.
"Direct flights could facilitate the greater export of Kenyan flowers to the US market where there is a high demand," US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger told a news conference.
Kenya's horticulture sector, the largest exporter of cut flowers to Europe, earned the country 70.3 billion Kenya shillings (USD$1.09 billion) last year. Kenyan flower exports to the United States are currently negligible.
An official at the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya said they expected the US market to account for 2-5 percent of exports at the start of the direct flights and rise gradually.
According to the Kenya Tourist Board, 101,879 US tourists visited Kenya in 2007, up from 86,528 the previous year. Tourism took a hit in the violent aftermath of disputed presidential elections last December.
"We think that in the next 12 months or so, the US can be the largest source country for tourists to Kenya if we can get direct flights underway," Ranneberger said.
Ranneberger said flights could start after negotiations on a 'Safe Skies' agreement are completed. A Safe Skies deal is designed to ensure airlines flying to US airports and foreign airports to which US carriers fly meet US security standards.
He said US airline Delta Air Lines was expected to start flights to Nairobi via west Africa next summer.