International conferences led to growth in tourism sector in 2023

Tourists disembark from a FlyDubai aircraft that landed at the Moi International Airport, Mombasa, on January 17, 2023. [Robert Menza, Standard]

Kenya’s tourism sector recorded an improved performance in 2023 with the number of international visitor arrivals growing by 35.4 per cent.

The 2024 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicates that the sector experienced a surge in the growth of tourist arrivals in 2023, reaching a recovery rate of 102.5 per cent compared to 2019, surpassing the global pre-pandemic recovery rate of 88 per cent.

The improved performance is linked to the conducive environment for tourism and high-profile international conferences and meetings held in 2023.

“In Kenya, the tourism sector registered improved performance in 2023 mainly attributed to growth in the aviation sector and hosting of prominent conferences in the country,” the survey highlighted.

The number of international conferences increased by 9 per cent to 977 while that of local conferences grew by 11 per cent to 10,725 in 2023.

The survey attributed the improvement to high-profile international conferences and meetings such as the Africa Climate Summit 2023 and EU-Kenya Business Forum, the East Africa Regional Tourism Expo and Magical Kenya Travel Expo, United Nations Habitat Assembly on urban agenda, and Youth Connect Africa Summit 2023.

The number of international visitors who arrived through Moi International Airport, Mombasa, grew by 82.3 per cent to 157,000, while arrivals through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) rose by 32.9 per cent to 1,478.4 million in 2023.

Arrivals through the two international airports were higher in all months of 2023 compared to 2022.

Key developments in the aviation sector during 2023, according to the survey, included the introduction of direct flights of three new airlines, including IndiGO (Mumbai - Nairobi), Flydubai (Dubai - Mombasa) and Airlink (Johannesburg - Nairobi).

During the period under review, international visitor arrivals for holiday purposes accounted for 44.8 per cent of all international visitor arrivals, while those on business accounted for 23.7 percent.

Residents of the United Kingdom and Germany jointly accounted for 43.1 per cent of the departing residents of Europe. Departures by residents of African countries increased by 52.1 per cent in 2023.

“Going forward, Africa has made continued improvement in its visa openness policies which will lead to increased cross-border travel, ease of movement and trade in 2024 and beyond,”  the survey notes.

The statistics showed that most visitors visited the Kenyan Coast with the number of hotel bed-nights occupied in the coastal beach recording an increase of 51.9 per cent. Hotel bed-nights occupancy in Nairobi registered a growth of 81.8 per cent in 2023.

The statistics show that local, German and Italian residents preferred coastal beach hotels.

Kenyans accounted for more than half of the total bed-nights occupancy in 2023, which indicates a growth in domestic tourism. The hotel bed-nights occupied in Maasailand zone also increased, as compared to 2022.

National parks and game reserves also recorded a boost during the year under review with Kenyan citizens contributing the largest number of visitors.

Visitors to national parks and game reserves rose by 43 per cent while that of visitors to museums, snake parks and historical sites grew by 27.9 per cent in 2023.

The number of visitors to national parks and game reserves, as per the survey, went up by 43 per cent in 2023. The number of visitors to Masai Mara game reserve rose by 67.7 per cent.

“Notable increases in visitors were also recorded at Haller’s Park, Tsavo (East), Lake Bogoria, and Nairobi Safari Walk.

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