Courtesy Business Daily JANUARY 8, 2018
Kenya’s economy confronted multiple challenges in 2017; a long drought during the first half of the year, a slowdown in lending to the private sector and a prolonged election cycle that slowed down the economic growth rate to 4.4 per cent by the third quarter of 2017 compared to 5.6 per cent registered during a corresponding period in 2016.
Despite these challenges, Kenya’s tourism sector exhibited resilience as captured in the World Bank’s latest economic update report on Kenya. The report cites the rebound in tourism among the factors that mitigated some of the headwinds facing Kenya’s economy.
Contrary to fears that tourist arrivals would plummet, total international arrivals to Kenya by air and sea between January and October 2017 increased by 7.8 per cent to nearly 787,000 tourists compared to a similar period in 2016.
Kenya’s top traditional source markets except India have shown an impressive average growth of 11.3 per cent in 2017. Between January and June 2017, the domestic tourism market expanded by eight per cent to over 1.8 million bed nights.
Kenya’s top source market, the US, registered double-digit growth in tourist arrivals. Similarly, China – Kenya’s fifth largest source market experienced impressive growth.
The US market grew by 16.3 per cent to nearly 96,000 tourists by October 2017 compared to 82,363 in October 2016 while China recorded a 14.1per cent increase in arrivals from just under 41,460 tourists in October 2016 to slightly over 47,000 tourists in October 2017.
Other key markets that registered double digit growth albeit from a smaller base included Spain, Australia and the Netherlands; all of which grew at 37.7,15.7 and 11.2 per cent respectively.
The UK, Kenya’s second largest source market, recorded a 7.5 per cent increase in tourists to 87,000 tourists in October 2017 compared to a similar period of 2016.
Tourist arrivals from Uganda – Kenya’s fourth largest source market, rose by 7.2 per cent from slightly over 45,000 in October 2016 to about 48,400 in October 2017.
This growth can be generally be credited to increased market investment and visibility via campaigns showcasing Kenya’s diversity in the respective markets, consistent positive media coverage, Government incentives such as reduction of park fees and visa fee waivers for children under the age of 16 years.
The resumption of direct flights to Kenya and increased flight frequencies by major international airlines such as Lufthansa, Air France, Air India and British Airways, further supported by Kenya Tourism Board’s partnership with our national carrier, Kenya Airways contributed to the increased arrivals by air.
The country also welcomed new carriers such as TUI – one of Europe’s largest charter airlines and Oman Air who are now providing direct flights from Kenya into their countries and vice versa.
The entry of top international hospitality brands such as Marriott International and Radisson as well as the opening of luxury airport hotels such as Four Points by Sheraton and Lazizi Premiere has expanded the country’s capacity in both quality hotel beds and in meetings and conferencing facilities.
Betty Radier is chief executive, Kenya Tourism Board.