Stakeholders in the hospitality industry have appealed to the government to open up markets that were closed during the Covid-19 pandemic to boost export volumes.
They say the move will ensure that the country earns more foreign exchange and at the same time create more job opportunities for the youth.
This was said during the third edition of the Regional Food Hospitality Expo-East Africa that took place in Nairobi last week.
They said the hotel industry has gained momentum after easing of Covid-19 containment measures by the government.
"The business is not badly off. Things are better now because people are eating and travelling," said Victory Global Impact Director Enock Makanga.
A recent report by the Ministry of Tourism indicates that foreign earnings rose by 83 per cent in 2022, with the sector recording Sh268 billion revenue compared to Sh146 billion the previous year.
Data from the Kenya National Bureau of statistics indicates that Kenya’s accommodation and restaurant services grew by over 21.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2023.
Despite the changing economic trends, the hospitality business has adapted to the demands.
"We are trying to catch up with the current economic status," said Edwin Kare, sales and marketing manager of Nrma Livestock, a company that processes Hilal meat.
Spur economic growth
He said business is slowly improving since they have more supplies from the pastoralist communities who sell livestock to them.
"Right now we are exploring the local market so that we can reach more local people in the hospitality industry,’’ Mr Kare said.
The stakeholders called for collaboration between the government and private sector in order to spur economic growth after a slump.
"We want to be part of the journey in terms of supporting the government in customer experience as it lures tourists to Kenya," said Mauzo Spice Director Naushad Kermali.
The tourism sector experienced a remarkable upswing in the first half of 2023, with a significant increase in international arrivals.
The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) said international visitor arrivals closed at 847,810 arrivals in the half year, a 32 per cent increase compared to the the same period in 2022 that registered 642,861 arrivals.
"This performance is a 92 per cent recovery when compared to 2019 performance of 929,814 arrivals in the same period.
"Of significance is that June 2023 arrivals closed at 168,051. This is a growth of one per cent when compared 166,692,'' KTB said in a statement.
During the period, total tourism earnings surged to Sh152.6 billion, reflecting an impressive growth rate of 31 per cent compared to the previous year's earnings of Sh116.2 billion.
Domestic bed nights recorded a 16 per cent increase between January and June, closing at 2.3 million compared to 2.02 million last year.
The best performing months were April and June which could be attributed to the Easter holidays and business travel respectively.
KTB has set an ambitious target to attract 10 million foreign tourists in the next five years.
KTB Chairman Francis Gichaba said earlier in the year that the sector is ripe for the next chapter of growth after overcoming the vagaries of the Covid-19 pandemic and other global shocks.