Fact-Checker: CS Najib Balala's tourism arrival figures correct

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala last week came out strongly to defend the sector’s performance in the first quarter of this year following reports of a decline in visitor numbers.

International arrivals are reported to have dropped by one per cent in the first half of this year compared to a similar period last year.

The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) received 623,371 arrivals, with Moi International Airport, Mombasa recording 61,739 arrivals.

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“If you look at the decline that we had in the first quarter, it is not in the international arrivals, it is on people coming into Kenya from Uganda and Tanzania,” he said.

Mr Balala noted that the country was experiencing the low season and figures will pick up in the high season by as much as 10 per cent.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicates that the country’s tourism sector has fully emerged from the 2013-2015 slump, with the country last year marking record arrivals. The tourism sector grew by more than 30 per cent as the number of arrivals to the country hit the two million mark for the first time.

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According to industry data, the highest surge in tourist arrivals has consistently been the fourth quarter of the year. In 2018, 504,900 arrivals were recorded in the country in the fourth quarter compared to 473,500 in the first quarter.

At the same time, KNBS indicates that the accommodation and restaurant sector reported a 6.7 per cent growth rate in the first quarter of this year, translating to more than a Sh1 billion in additional value compared to a similar period last year.

The sustained growth in the sector has also been attributed to domestic tourism as more Kenyans visit local destinations. In 2017, Kenyan residents accounted for more than half (3.4 million) of the country’s six million hotel bed-nights, making domestic tourism the largest driver of growth in the sector.

Tourism CS Balala’s explanation on the drop accruing from regional arrivals is, therefore, accurate, particularly given recent trade and diplomatic spat experienced among East African Community countries.

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CS Najib BalalaJomo Kenyatta International Airport