Maasai giraffes crossing road at Masai Mara Game Reserve on May 23, 2021. [Robert,Kiplagat, Standard]

Kenya’s tourism industry recovered significantly last year from the disruption caused by Covid-19 with industry statistics indicating that earnings could rebound to pre-pandemic numbers in the near term.

According to the latest edition of the Economic Survey, the country’s tourism sector reported a 50 per cent increase in international visitor arrivals to 871,300 in 2021 as economies globally relaxed travel restrictions following the rollout of mass vaccinations.

In 2020, the number of visitor arrivals through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport  (JKIA) and Moi International Airport stood at 47,038, a drastic drop from the 1.5 million arrivals recorded in 2019.

According to the KNBS, hotel bed-nights occupancy rose by 45 per cent to 5.5 million last year, with domestic tourists boosting the industry’s earnings lost from the slow down in international visitors.

“Domestic tourism expanded notably with hotel bed-nights occupancy of Kenyan residents growing by 49 per cent to 3.8 million, accounting for 69 per cent of total bed nights occupancy in 2021,” explained the KNBS in its report.

International conferences held in the country increased from 28 in 2020 to 292 last year while local conferences increased from 1,176 in 2020 to 8,117 in 2021.

“The number of visitors to national parks and game reserves increased by 50 per cent from 1 million in 2020 to 1.5 million in 2021,” explained the statistics office. “Similarly, the number of visitors to museums, snake parks and historical sites more than doubled to 403,700 in 2021.”

The latest figures come on the back of high uncertainty in the sector following the Covid-19 pandemic that saw numerous hospitality and entertainment establishments shut down. 

In the 2020/2021 financial year, the government allocated an additional Sh8 billion to the tourism and wildlife sectors.

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