Tourist arrivals surge 32pc as sector rebounds

Tourists entertained by dancers after disembarking from the World Odyssen cruiser at the Port of Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Tourist arrivals in the first half of 2023 rose by 32 per cent with an almost similar growth in revenue, a new report by the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) indicates.

The sector reported 847,810 international arrivals in the half year to June compared to the same period in 2022, which registered 642,861.

“This performance is a 92 per cent recovery when compared to 2019 performance of 929,814 arrivals in the same period,” said KTB in a statement.

“Of significance is that June 2023 arrivals closed at 168,051. This is a growth of one percent when compared to 166,692 (last year).”

The tourism sector experienced a remarkable upswing in international arrivals, leading to higher revenues.

During the half year, total tourism receipts surged to Sh152.6 billion, a 31 per cent growth compared to the previous year’s earnings of Sh116.2 billion. Domestic bed nights recorded a 16 per cent increase this year, closing at 2.3 million compared to 2.02 million in 2022. 

The best performing months were April and June which could be attributed to the Easter holidays and business travel respectively, KTB said.

Tourism industry players at the Kenyan Coast said that while the numbers show an improvement from the previous years, revenues from tourism are still low especially for international earnings.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast Branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye said the recent announcement to open the skies to allow direct flights into Mombasa was commendable.

“We hope there will be more flights given rights to land here so that the coastal destination can be optimally explored,” he said.

Dr Ikwaye said there was need to ensure quality manpower for the ongoing recovery efforts.

“We continue to export labour and, if not checked, we’ll soon import quality service personnel.”

He cautioned that there should be no room for celebration because Kenya’s competitors in the region are equally recording good numbers, an indication that the global travel industry is recovering.

“This calls for more aggressive marketing, product development and diversification as well as value addition to tourism products so that the jewel remains polished in the wake of recovery.”

The US remains the leading source market for Kenya’s tourism sectorwith a market share of 14 per cent.