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Tourist arrivals in Kenya drop by 24pc in two months after Obama’s visit

By Paul Wafula | December 9th 2015

The number of visitors arriving in the country through the main airports dropped by 16 per cent in August to 59,000 after President Obama's visit.

Latest data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that July was the best month in visitor arrivals after 78,243 visitors arrived through the main airports. This was about 15,000 visitors more in the month the US president visited the country. Obama was in Kenya towards the end of July and the spike could be associated with this visit.

But the numbers have dropped in the last two months after the Obama visit for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in what shows that the visit is yet to help Kenya push up its tourist numbers as was widely expected.

The KNBS data shows that the total number of visitors arriving through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and Moi International Airports (MIA) decreased from 70,878 in August 2015 to 59,276 in September 2015.

However, the number of passengers who landed at JKIA increased marginally from 179,826 in August 2015 to 180,109 in September 2015.

The recent visit by the Pope and next week's World Trade Organisations meeting in Nairobi is also expected to help revive the sector.

The data shows that the passengers who left the country through the same airports in Nairobi and Mombasa expanded from 180,094 to 181,249 persons in the same period.

Hotels at the Coast are expecting full bookings during the Christmas period to recoup losses and the damage caused by the 2014 travel advisories issued by Western nations following Al Shabaab terrorist attacks that scared visitors away.

Already some hotels in Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi counties are said to have recorded between 60 and 90 per cent bookings for Christmas and this is expected to soar to between 90 and 100 per cent by December 22.

The sector is also planning to launch a new strategy to deal with the domestic market after the proposal to have private sector pay for holidays for staff and claim tax refunds from the government failed to attract significant takers.

The figures also show that the total number of vehicles registered rose from 17,365 in August 2015 to 18,596 in September 2015. Motorcycles accounted for about 45 per cent of total motor vehicles registered in September 2015. But the new taxes in the sector are expected to slow down the motor cycle industry.

Dealers in the motorcycle taxis, commonly referred to as boda boda, argue that the proposal to slap motorcycles an excise tax of Sh10,000 per unit could be counter-productive to the industry.

"Without doubt, the prices of motorcycles will go up and so will the transport costs, affecting negatively a sector that is playing a very important part in Kenyan economy. We are mentioning few of the points below," Car and General Managing Director Vijay Gidoomal, told The Standard in an earlier interview.

Demand for the two wheelers has been steadily rising in the past five years after the government removed taxes. An introduction of VAT last year cut the sales of new bikes by a half. And the latest round of taxes is expected to throw many dealers out of business.

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