Published September 15, 2013
Kenya tourism’s sector suffered a 7.4% decline in revenue and a further 8.8% loss in the number of international tourists during the 2012/2013 financial year.
The decline could be attributed to the fear of a recurrence of violence as happened in 2007, the the Euro Zone economic crisis and the fear occasioned by the kidnapping of tourists by Al-Shabaab in the Lamu archipelago.
Instead of 1.2 million tourists received in Kenya in 2011/2012, only 1.1 million visited in 2012/2013 leading to the decline in revenue collected from US$1.18 billion to US$1.1 billion.
Tourism Secretary, Phyllis Kandie, told journalists in Nairobi that the the general elections held in Kenya in March 2013 could have contributed to the decline.
“The uncertainty surrounding the 2013 presidential elections as well as the Euro Zone crisis led to a decline in tourism earnings,” Kandie said.
Britain, that sends the highest number of tourists followed by USA, stayed ahead though with a smaller number of tourists: 171,148 instead of 208,009 the previous year.
Tourists from USA declined by 9.3% to stand at 116,277.
Kandie said that the cancellation of direct flights between Kenya and Italy reduced the number of Italians from 91,053 in the 2011/2012 financial year to 81,894 in the 2012/2013.
“However, the number of tourists arriving by cruise ship increased by 400 percent as it moved from 270 in the 2011/2012 financial year to 1,375 visitors in the 2012/2013 financial year,” she said.
She noted that India remained the largest source of Asian tourists with 66,424 arrivals.
“The 10 percent growth compared to the previous period was due to the continuing expansion of the Indian economy,” she said.
Kandie said that the second half of the 2012/2013 financial year contributed 58% of the total arrivals.
According to Kandie, Uganda remained the biggest source of tourists in Africa, as 56,844 Ugandans visited Kenya by air.
“This is a 44 percent increase compared to the 2011/2012 financial year,” she said, noting that South Africa and Tanzania contributed 38,776 and 29654 tourists, respectively.
“Tourists from China grew by 4 percent to reach 38,482 while those from the UAE were 44,526, which is a 53 percent increase compared to the previous year,” she said.
Overall tourist arrivals in 2012 stood at 1.26 million, lower than the 1.3 million the country had targeted.
Currently, the peak season, which usually starts in July and ends in December is ongoing, but tourism stakeholders have complained booking have declined.
Tourism is the second largest source of foreign exchange revenue for Kenya after tea, with the main tourist attractions being photo safaris through 19 national parks and game reserves, though the country has been diversifying to other areas like eco-tourism and conference tourism.
Kenya Tourism Board Managing Director, Muriithi Ndegwa, said that as Kenya continues to maintain its traditional source markets, it will also diversify into emerging markets.
“These markets have shown significant growth due to their resilience in the face of economic hardships,” he said. Ndegwa said that China should emerge as a top 10 source market for tourists within the next three years.
“Our target is that by 2016, at least 100,000 Chinese tourists visit Kenya,” he said.
KTB said that Kenya is already the third most popular destination in Africa for Chinese tourists after Egypt and South Africa.
He noted that domestic tourism remains strategic to the country as it has grown from 34% to 41% in terms of bed capacity in the past three years.
“We hope to leverage our unrivalled natural beauty and diversity to expand the sector,” Ndegwa said, adding that tourism contributes about 11% of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product.