New data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has shown that the air transport sector in Kenya contributes $3.2bn or 5.1% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

It also supports approximately 620,000 job opportunities, including tourism-related employment in the East African nation.

The new findings are included in ‘The Importance of Air Transport to Kenya’ study conducted by Oxford Economics on behalf of IATA.

IATA Middle East and Africa regional vice-president Muhammad Ali Albakri said: “The study confirms the vital role that air transport plays in facilitating over $10bn in exports, some $4.4bn in foreign direct investment and around $800,000 in inbound leisure and business tourism for Kenya.

"The study confirms the vital role that air transport plays in facilitating over $10bn in exports."

“However, by adopting policies that ensure a competitive operating environment for the airlines, Kenya could reap even greater dividends from aviation.”

As revealed in a survey conducted by the World Economic Forum, Kenya’s transport infrastructure quality score ranks the nation sixth out of 37 African countries surveyed and 78th globally.

The country ranks tenth out of 37 African countries for visa openness, and 31st out of 37 for cost competitiveness in the air transport industry, based on air ticket taxes, airport charges and value-added tax (VAT).

Albakri added: “While Kenya’s air transport infrastructure ranks highly among African states, it is important that heavy fees, taxes and charges do not hold aviation back.”

Approximately 130,000 aircraft arrive at and depart from one of Kenya’s five main airports every year.