NAIROBI, KENYA: Kenya’s tourism industry earnings grew 20 per cent in the period to December 2017 to Sh120 billion compared to Sh99.69 billion in 2016, despite the challenge of a prolonged electioneering period.
The number of tourists to the country also grew by 10 per cent, with the total 1.47 million people visiting the destination during the year, compared to 1.34 million in 2016. The improved visitor numbers however fell short of Government and industry expectations, which had projected a 17 per cent growth on the number of people coming to Kenya for holiday and conferencing.
Najib Balala Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Tourism said the growth, while short of target, demonstrated that tourist source markets had improved confidence in Kenya as a destination.
“The numbers show that there is confidence in Kenya. Previously the numbers had gone down due to insecurity but the Government has invested heavily in security which has restored confidence among tourist source markets,” he said.
Balala said the Ministry projected the industry to grow 16 per cent in the course of this year, which would bring the number of visitors to Kenya to about 1.67 million.
While earnings reached a record high, arrivals are yet to achieve a full recovery when put in comparison with the best performing year of 2011 when there were over 1.8 million visitors. In the following years, the industry faced a setback following a series of terrorist attacks resulting in decline in visitor numbers as well as earnings.
The United States was the number one tourist source market and Kenya received 114 000 tourists from the country followed by the UK (107 000 tourists) and Uganda (61 500).
It is expected that the direct flights to the US will increase the number of tourists to Kenya from the country as well as boost trade between the two countries. Kenya Airways is scheduled to start flying in to the US in October this year and in January started selling tickets for the route. This will cut travel time between the US and Kenya by about eight hours. Currently, travellers have to travel through Europe or Middle East.
Balala said KQ and the Kenya Tourism Board will in March market Kenya in the US ahead of starting the direct flights.
“Despite the lack of direct flights, the number of visitors has been growing. KTB will partner with Kenya Airways and in March they will go for a roadshow in New York to market Kenya as well as the airline,” he said.