23 May 2009

Kenya: Tourism Figures Drop By 19 Percent

Nairobi — Kenya last year received reduced revenues from the tourism industry, officials have announced.

Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) acting Managing Director MariAnne Ndegwa told the media last week that earnings from the sector dropped by 19.4% from KShs65.4 billion recorded in 2007 to KShs52.7 billion.

Ndegwa said total tourist arrivals in the same period dipped by 40% to close at 1.1 million while charter flight operations and bed occupancies declined by an average of 30% and 65% respectively.

"The year 2008 was actually the worst in the history of Kenya's tourism and perhaps the most challenging year for the trade.

It began with the post-election violence which resulted into massive cuts in arrivals by 50% in the first quarter of the year compared to 2007," she regretted.

The year 2007 had been hailed by players as the best year for the industry because arrivals for the first time touched the two million mark. All these achievements were reversed in 2008 by internal and external factors.

As the sector began showing signs of recovery in the second half of the year, the global credit crunch set in and affected the visitors' purchasing power which meant less travel.

Arrivals from markets like France and Italy recorded huge slumps ranging from 40% to 100% due to the negative publicity the country received in the Western media at the height of the post-poll crisis.

This translated into a drastic reduction in bed occupancies with some hotels recording zero occupancy which resulted in layoffs and closure of some of the properties.

Nevertheless, some key markets such as the USA, UK and Germany showed signs of recovery and this is mainly attributed to the positive endorsements that Kenya as a tourist destination got as a result of President Barack Obama's candidacy and subsequent election into the White House. Amid all the chaos, Ms Ndegwa said domestic tourism has held up well. The market increased its contribution to bed occupancies from 27% in 2007 to 42% in 2008.

This segment accounts for 30% of tourism's total earnings.

Since late last year, a lot of money and effort have gone into marketing initiatives both locally and internationally that are meant to restore hope and confidence in the sector.

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