After years of relative stagnation, things are looking up for the tourism sector, thanks to a surge in domestic tourism and international arrivals.
Tourism Principal Secretary Fatuma Hirsi attributed the positive trend to the lifting of adverse travel advisories by key source markets, infrastructure development, tax incentives and diversification of tourist attractions.
Speaking in Kilifi County at the weekend while on an inspection tour of ongoing works on the Ronald Ngala Utalii College, the PS said domestic tourism continued to drive growth in the hospitality sector particularly at the Coast.
“In the 2016-2017 financial year, we planned to return the sector into prosperity and targeted 1.4 million inbound tourists and raise Sh94.6 billion in revenues as a result,” she said.
“As we speak, we have collected Sh100 billion in revenues as the sector continues to pick up following months of recovery efforts.”
The PS said the recent commissioning of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) was expected to further boost tourist numbers, especially to the Coast.
“Without a doubt, the number of foreign and domestic tourists visiting Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu is definitely going to increase with the Standard Gauge Railway in operation now,” she said.
Data from the Tourism Ministry showed that international tourist arrivals to the country increased by 16.7 per cent to 877,602, from January to December last year, attesting to a change in fortunes for the sector that had taken a heavy beating from among other factors, increased incidents of insecurity, especially at the Coast.
The ministry attributed the marked good performance to improved security and advertising in source markets.
PS Hirsi meanwhile, called for peaceful campaigns in the countdown to the August 8 general election, saying rising political temperatures were likely to erode the gains made in the fragile industry.
“Kenya is marketed abroad as a favourite holiday destination on account of its inviting long beaches and the hospitality of its people... electoral violence will no doubt dent the fortunes of the tourism sector,” she said.
Kenya Tourism Fund Chairman Henry Koskey assured tourism stakeholders the Government was committed to the completion of the Sh8 billion Ronald Ngala Utalii College.
“Work on the tourism college is 50 per cent complete and we assure Kenyans that they will get value for their money,” he said. He said the first batch of students would be admitted next year as planned.
The fund’s Chief Executive Joseph Cherutoi said the Kenya Utalii College in Nairobi can no longer meet the demand of students and hotel workers seeking hospitality courses hence the importance of the Kilifi campus.
Parliament had earlier this year directed the college’s management to re-design the institution to accommodate 3,000 students, among other additional components.
National Assembly’s Public Investment Committee (PIC) aregued the redesign would ensure cost-effectiveness of the project besides giving taxpayers value for money.