Foreign tourists' contribution to job creation is exaggerated

During a visit to the JKIA earlier this year, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala took senior airport staff to task over the management of the facility. [Photo: Edward Kiplimo, Standard]
Just how much do foreign tourists contribute to job creation in Kenya’s tourism sector?

During a visit to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport earlier this year, Tourism Cabinet Secretary (CS) Najib Balala took senior airport staff to task over the management of the facility.

“Every 11 visitors that come into this country create a job to a Kenyan,” he said. “So if we mishandle that visitor then we are destroying employment for our people, simple as that.” 

Mr Balala’s statement is however exaggerated.

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Kenya’s tourism sector is one of the country’s leading sources of foreign exchange. According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) earning’s from the tourism sector rose 18 per cent from Sh84.6 billion to Sh99.7 billion.

However, a look at the country’s tourism sector indicates an almost even mix of sources of earnings to the various sub-sectors of the tourism industry - from both international and local tourists.

For instance, Kenyan residents occupied more than half (3.4 million) of the country’s six million hotel bed-nights in 2016, indicating that domestic tourism accounted for more than half the earnings reported in the hotel and hospitality sector.

In addition to this, 187,000 East African residents stayed at the country’s game reserves and lodges against 176,500 foreign residents over the same period of time.

KNBS data indicates that a total of 1.3 million visitors arrived in the country in 2016 for holiday, business, transit and other purposes.

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According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the total contribution of jobs directly created by the travel and tourism industry in Kenya stood at 399,000 jobs expected to rise by 3.3 per cent per year to 569,000 jobs in 2027.

A rough estimation of the number of foreign tourists attributable to each job indicates a ratio of 1:29, almost thrice the ratio of 1:11 claimed by CS Balala.

Adjusting for the 50 per cent of job creation attributable to local tourism further doubles the ratio to 50 tourists creating one Kenyan job and not 11 tourists creating one job as claimed by the CS.

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