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

Stakeholders in the multi-billion-shilling tourism industry at the Kenyan Coast want the government to focus more on marketing the country to the rest of Africa in efforts to shore up tourist numbers.

Skal International Kenya Coast President Janet Chamia said following the introduction of a free visa regime by both Kenya and South Africa, there has been a huge increase in the number of Kenyans flocking to the rainbow nation.

Ms Chamia said the South African government through its tourism board has put in place aggressive marketing campaigns in Kenya, leading to a significant surge in visitors from Kenya.

"There is a need for Kenya to be felt more on the ground down in South Africa. Let us emulate what our good fellow African nation is doing to help bring in more SA tourists here. We could also relook at the prospects of allowing for direct flights, particularly those operated by low-cost carriers which used to fly direct from the Oliver Tambo International Airport, in Johannesburg to Moi International Airport, Mombasa a few years back to serve largely the Kenyan Coast market," she said.

From January 1, 2023, Kenyans have enjoyed visa-free travel to South Africa for 90 days in a year.

President William Ruto declared Kenya visa-free from January this year to attract visitors.

According to tourism players, the scrapping of visa requirements for travellers between Kenya and South Africa demonstrates more than an administrative adjustment.

It marked a milestone in fostering closer ties for African countries, serving as a precursor for a new era of ease in travel and cultural exchange.

The impact of this change, coupled with the South African tourism board's marketing strategies, has been profound, with that country experiencing a surge in visitors from Kenya.

Between January and December 2023, Kenya recorded a 99 per cent increase compared to 2022, reaching 42,403 arrivals.

A comparison of seasonal trends shows that in 2023, arrivals exceeded 2019 arrivals. In 2022, arrivals peaked over 2019 in October.

This is an incredible number of Kenyan tourists who chose to explore South Africa above any other destination.

Overall, South Africa welcomed 6.4 million visitors from the rest of Africa between January and December 2023, marking 75.6 per cent of all arrivals.

In 2023, Kenyan tourists spent over 20 per cent more than what they spent in 2019. The influx has had an economic and cultural impact.

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