Kenya records highest drop in tourists from South Africa, China

Tourists from Ukraine wait for public health officials to approve their Covid-19 certificates at Moi International Airport, Mombasa. Kenya witnessed a 72 per cent drop in tourists’ numbers. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

China and South Africa were the largest tourism markets that Kenya lost last year as a result of Covid-19 pandemic.

Arrivals from these two nations dropped by 80.6 per cent and 75.9 per cent respectively. As a result, Kenya witnessed an overall drop of 72 per cent in tourists’ numbers.

This is contained in the latest report by the East African Business Council (EABC), which shows that only 567,948 tourists visited the country last year compared to 2.02 million in 2019 and 2.03 million in 2018.

The two countries, however, were not leading in the numbers of tourists in 2019, according to the report released April 26, 2021.

The report indicates that as of 2019 China was Kenya’s fourth-leading tourist market internationally. The United States leads the pack. In Africa, Uganda in the leading tourist market.

In 2019, Kenya recorded 245,437 visitors from the US, a number that has dropped to 65,377 in 2020. In the same year, Kenya received 223,010 visitors from Uganda, which dropped by 69.7 per cent to 67,572 in 2020.

“However, the source market for Kenya that recorded the biggest drop is South Africa at 75.9 per cent from 46,926 in 2019 to 11,313 in 2020,” reads the report titled Impact Assessment of Covid-19 Pandemic on the Tourism and Hospitality Industry in the EAC and Post Recovery Sector.

South Africa is Kenya’s third-leading market in the region after Uganda and Tanzania. Rwanda comes fourth followed by Ethiopia as per the 2019 numbers. Tourists from Tanzania to Kenya dropped by 72.1 per cent last year, from 193,740 to 54,053.

Visitors from Rwanda reduced by 67.2 per cent.

“Kenya is one of the largest regional source markets for Rwanda and it dropped by 56.7 per cent from 62,300 in 2019 to 27,134 in 2020,” the report reads.

The arrival of tourists from the United Kingdom - Kenya’s second-largest market - saw a drop of 72.5 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 as numbers from India slumped by 75.7 per cent.

Due to the drop, some 394,875 jobs in the sector were lost. Also, revenue slumped by 72 per cent to Sh53.1 billion from 189.7 billion in 2019 and Sh152.8 billion in 2018.

International arrivals, visits to the parks and hotel occupancy rates were the three key impact indicators used to determine the drop. The report records an average drop of 64.6 per cent in 2020 in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

“Uganda and Rwanda experienced the largest dips in visitors to parks at 68.7 per cent and 67.5 per cent respectively. Tanzania and Kenya recorded 61.8 per cent and 60.3 per cent drop respectively,” it adds.

The report notes that the hotel occupancy rates remained dampened throughout the period April-December 2020 in EAC partner States given that less international travel took place.

A March 2021 survey by the Central Bank of Kenya revealed that the hotels recorded an annual average of 27.6 per cent bed occupancy in 2020.  

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