Nairobi is set to become the fourth most visited destination city in Africa this year, according to the 2012 MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index.
The index has revealed that a projected 1.8 million visitors are expected to visit Nairobi this year, injecting an estimated Sh126 billion ($1.5 billion) into the city's economy.
These figures translate to a 10 percent growth in visitor numbers and a 16.7 percent growth in visitor spending over the 2011 Index results.
The three cities where most visitors to Nairobi are forecast to originate from are London (203,000 people), Amsterdam (149,000 people), and Johannesburg (138,000 people).
Londoners are expected to spend Sh28.4 billion ($339 million) during 2012 (a growth of 8.1 percent from 2011); those from Amsterdam are expected to spend Sh9.9 billion ($118 million; 6.7 percent growth from the 2011) while Johannesburg visitors are expected to spend Sh11.6 billion ($138 million; 10.2 percent growth from 2011).
"A key finding of the Index is that Nairobi ranks fourth out of 13 cities surveyed in Africa - both in terms of visitor numbers and visitor spend - highlighting its status as the financial heart of the East African region and a significant African economic hub," Charlton Gordema, Vice President, Market Manager, East Africa and Indian Ocean Islands for MasterCard Worldwide said.
Nairobi also ranked 13th out of the world's top 20 fastest growing destination cities by visitor numbers and 10th out of the 20 fastest growing destination cities by visitor cross-border spending.
"The Kenyan government's identification of air transport capacity being vital to the continued growth of the country's economy and the resulting investment in upgrading Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is now yielding results, as can be seen in the Index," Gordema added.
Kenya Airways is also preparing itself for growth in visitor numbers with its 2013 target of becoming the leading carrier on the continent - interlinking every African capital city and connecting the rest of Africa to the world via its Nairobi hub.
In addition, Kenya Airways has secured an open skies agreement, a move that will get the airline a step closer to entering the American market with direct flights from Nairobi.
The Index ranks 132 global cities by their total international visitor arrivals and the cross-border spending by these visitors in the destination cities, and gives visitor and passenger growth forecasts for 2012.
The 13 African cities surveyed apart from Nairobi included: Accra, Cairo, Johannesburg, Casablanca, Beira, Cape Town, Dakar, Durban, Kampala, Lagos, Maputo, and Tunis.
The leading African cities in terms of visitor numbers were Cairo, with an anticipated 3.3 million visitors; Johannesburg with an expected 2.5 million visitors; and Casablanca with an estimated 2.1 million visitors.