James Momanyi @jamomanyi
The tourism sector bounced back last year to record a 20.3 per cent growth in earnings despite the volatile political climate witnessed during the entire year and incidencies of violence in some parts of the country.
According to the Tourism Industry Performance Report released yesterday by the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala, the sector earned the country Sh119.9 billion in 2017, compared to Sh99.7 billion the previous year.
“Kenya grew stronger in 2017 as a destination brand following positive visibility and endorsements it received through global accolades such as the World Travel Awards’ declaration of Kenya as the world’s best safari destination.
This was achieved despite a busy electioneering that threatened to slow down tourism activities,” said Balala. “The strong growth in tourism receipts was underpinned by a 9.8 per cent growth in total international arrivals into Kenya by air, sea and across border last year to 1.47 million arrivals compared to 1.34 million arrivals in 2016,” he added.
International arrivals by air and sea grew by 10.1 per cent to hit 964,294 while cross-border arrivals grew by 9.3 per cent to close the year with 508,364 visitors. However, there was a decline of cruise arrivals by 26 per cent to close at 2,013 compared to 2,717 in the previous year.
Despite the the strong performance of the industry in an election year, industry stakeholders had projected a growth of 20 per cent in arrivals. The CS said that the government has put in place measures to increase cruise liner arrivals, with special focus on home based cruise liners.
“We are going to improve facilities to attract more cruise liners. For instance, the terminal for cruise ships will be ready by June this year and we have appointed a consultant to advice us on how to improve facilities and the incentives, which can attract more cruise liners,” said Balala.
On the domestic front, the number of Kenyans who visited tourism destinations increased by 15.9 last year. A total of 4.5 million beds were taken up by Kenyans last year compared to 3.5 million in 2016.
The CS attributed the increase to the various interventions that sensitised Kenyans to tour the country like awareness campaigns and the development of infrastructure like the Nairobi – Mombasa SGR.
Equally, opening of new properties, introduction of new products in the tourism circuit like zip lining, and biking spiked the local numbers, same as the rise of alternative accommodation and affordable packages developed by local tour companies.
Holiday and leisure visits continued to take the lion share (67 per cent) while business and conferencing contributed 14 per cent of international arrivals in 2017. Visits to relatives and friends grew by two per cent last year.
In terms market share, the US is still the leading source market contributing 11.8 per cent of the arrivals followed by the UK at 11.1 per cent. Neighboring country Uganda is third (6.2 per cent), closely followed by India and China who contributed 6.2 per cent and 5.5 per cent respectively.