Tourism earnings up 65 per cent as State targets Sh172.9 billion

Tourists at Maasai Mara National game reserve in Narok County. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The government expects tourism earnings to rise by Sh26.4 billion this year despite the country’s high season of international visits coinciding with the General Election.

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala says he believes the country’s politics has matured enough not to disrupt the cycle of business.

The sector is usually at its peak during the wildebeest migration at the Maasai Mara that starts around July. This year’s polls are due to take place on August 9.

“The problem is not during elections or before. It is after elections, where people do not want to accept either a win or loss,” the CS said.

The expectation by the ministry is that 1,027,151 visitors will arrive in the country and passenger flight landings will increase from 59,486 to 70,193 compared to 2021 numbers.

Last year, there were 870,467 international visitors and earnings stood at Sh146.5 billion, according to the latest tourism performance report released on Wednesday.

The ministry projects earnings of Sh172.9 billion this year, a 38 per cent increase compared to 2021.

In 2020, earnings in the sector stood at Sh88.6 billion. The steady rise in earnings to Sh146.5 billion, Mr Balala said, was largely supported by domestic tourism.

According to the report, 1,286,028 citizens visited Kenya Wildlife Service parks compared to 913,052 in 2020. While the number of domestic visits to KWS parks increased by 372,976, those by non-residents increased by 30,796 to 196,474.

Revenue from these visits went up to Sh1.5 billion from Sh1.059 billion in 2020, indicating a slight recovery yet still far from the Sh4.4 billion recorded in 2019.

Bed night occupancy between January and September stood at 4,138,821 compared to 2,575,812 in 2020, a recovery of 60.7 per cent. Room nights also went up 55.3 per cent to 3,084,957 during the same period compared to 1,986,465 in 2020.

“Domestic bed nights grew by 101.3 per cent between 2020 and 2021 while international bed nights grew by 0.05 per cent,” the Tourism Sector Performance 2021 report said. “These bed nights recovery trends are an indication that the hospitality sector has largely been supported by domestic travel in 2021.”

Domestic flights also registered growth as the number increased to 43,949 from 28,356 in 2020.

Balala said the travels have been key in boosting the tourism in towns such as Naivasha and Kisumu.

“We have recovered well but we are not yet there, particularly the domestic market,” he said.

Holiday is still the major reason for visitors to travel into the country (34.44 per cent) followed by visiting friends and family (29.57), with business and meeting, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) reported at 26.4 per cent.

Other reasons were transit at 5.36 per cent, education (2.19 per cent), medical (one per cent), religion (0.81 per cent) and sports (0.24 per cent).

Balala, however, said while many visitors indicate they are coming to Kenya for holiday, some of them do so for easy entry into the country.

He said for visitors to enter the country for holiday, they just need to book a hotel for visa processing. However, any other purpose of visit needs letters from hosts or invitation if it is conferences.

“Basically, all visitors from African countries are here for business and not holiday,” said Balala said.

On visitors from the continent, Uganda led with 80,000 followed by Tanzania with 74,051 and Somalia’s 26,270.

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