Recent developments at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) have drawn attention to issues concerning passengers and authorities. Miraa exporters disagreed with the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) over the relocation of cargo handling from airport warehouses. Exporters claimed compliance with airport standards, disputing an abrupt decision that may disrupt Miraa exports to Somalia, Israel, and Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile, at JKIA’s Customs section, a contentious directive by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) sparked dissatisfaction among travellers. KRA set a KES75,000 limit for declaring items, causing passenger harassment during searches. (USD 500). Isaac Mwaura, a government spokesperson, acknowledged the issue and suggested raising the threshold to KES1.5 million, in line with the global standard of $10,000. The concern was that such incidents might discourage tourists from visiting Kenya, impacting the country’s status as a preferred destination.

In another developing story, the KRA reported a significant revenue collection of KES51 million over four months, resulting from intercepted goods at JKIA. The items included a range of prohibited and restricted goods, such as sex toys, shisha, drones, guns, and Viagra packs. KRA Commissioner General Humphrey Wattanga emphasised the commitment to enforcing customs laws while respecting passengers’ dignity. This revelation came amid public outcry and concerns about mistreatment and unexpected import tax payments upon entry.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua addressed the situation, expressing concern over the reported harassment of visitors by some KRA officials. While acknowledging the need for customs officers to fulfil their duty, Mutua highlighted the potential negative impact on Kenya’s reputation as a preferred tourist destination if such incidents persisted.

It has not been business as usual at JKIA as the two government authorities flexed their muscles. KAA faces challenges with Miraa exporters, while KRA contends with angry travellers over customs regulations. Both find themselves balancing law enforcement with positive travel experience.