Tourism sector rides on aviation recovery path to bounce back

Passengers disembarking from a cruise ship at the Port of Mombasa in March 2024. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

The tourism sector recorded an improved performance last year as a result of growth in the aviation sector and hosting of prominent conferences.

Data from the Economic Survey 2024 shows the number of international visitor arrivals grew by 35.4 percent to 2.086 million in 2023, from 1.5 million in 2022.

Further, the surge in the growth of tourist arrivals saw the sector reach a recovery rate of 102.5 percent compared to 2019, surpassing the global pre-pandemic recovery rate of 88 per cent.

The hotel bed-night occupancy rose by 23.2 per cent to 8.63 million in 2023 of which 53.5 percent were occupied by Kenyans. The trend shows a growing domestic tourism.

The improved performance indicates that the sector is likely to achieve the 2.5 million international visitor arrivals and 6.5 million bed nights’ occupancy by Kenyans as contained in the Third Medium Term Plan, 2018-2022.

The Tourism Research Institute, earlier this year released a report that showed that the tourism sector performance had rebounded strongly by Sh56.34 billion, surpassing the pre-pandemic earnings of Sh296.2 billion recorded in 2019.

The immense recovery has been attributed to the weakening of the Kenya shilling against major global currencies and the effects of inflation locally and internationally also the rebound indicates higher per capita spending by arriving tourists.

Following the impressive sector performance, the tourism report projects that the sector performance will grow to Sh430 billion in 2024.

It also projects hitting up to 1.024 trillion by 2028 indicating a possibility of the country achieving the government’s vision of attracting five million tourists by 2028.

On visitor arrivals, the tourism sector projects receiving 2.4 million tourists in 2024, and up to 5.7 billion visitors by 2028.

Visitor arrivals by point of entry increased by 36.4 per cent through JKIA and Moi International Airport when compared to the rise of 31.9 percent recorded through other border points in 2023.

The economic survey shows that most visitors came for holiday. 934,400 visitors came for holiday, 493,800 came for business, and 101,700 were on transit.

In the same period, the number of departing visitors increased by 36,4 per cent to 1,952,400 in 2023 to 1,431,800 in 2022. The hotel bed nights’ occupancy by residents of Europe more than doubled to 1,970,000 in 2023. This was attributed to notable growth in bed-night occupancy by residents of Germany, Italy and UK in 2023.

Kenyan residents accounted for more than half of total bed-night occupancy in 2023, highlighting the significance of domestic tourism.

Further, the hotel bed-night capacity grew by 8.4 percent in 2023, partly attributed to new hotels and the expansion of some of the existing ones.

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