4 January 2016

Kenya: December Bookings Point to Brighter Year for Tourism

Nairobi — Hotels at the coast region recorded 80 to 90 percent bookings during the Christmas period, raising hopes of tourism improvement especially in the region this year.

Kenya Coast Tourism Association Chairman Mohamed Hersi says the increase in bookings during the holidays from less than 50 percent same period in 2014, was due to increased security levels.

"We have seen a lot of change in security matters and I can say we had a very smooth festive season. It was calm and easy," Hersi told Capital FM Business on Monday.

Coastal tourism plays a key role in Kenya's tourism sector as a whole but has continued to suffer due to low international arrivals since 2013.

For example, between January and September 2015 foreign visitors arriving through Moi International Airport in Mombasa, decreased to 53,084 from 94,750 in 2014, representing a 43.9 percent drop.

But Hersi says there is hope in 2016 after a lot of improvements towards and during the just concluded holidays season in terms of tourists numbers.

The season saw at least six cruise ships dock at the Mombasa port each carrying on average, 600 tourists.

"We have had six cruise ships dock within a period of only four weeks. This is very high. I know we had some tourists coming for holiday in Mombasa but I would want to clarify that a lot also came for safaris in other places in Kenya. The average spent period was two days," Hersi said.

The number of domestic tourists at the coast including Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi remained high at over 70 percent, with a lot coming from Nairobi.

But despite the international tourists number remaining low compared to domestic, there was an improvement of about 20 percent in 2015 holiday season.

"We saw the number of domestic tourists remain high and I would want to thank especially those from Nairobi who came over. There was good level of business," Hersi said adding that there was also a growth in numbers from regional tourists especially from Uganda and Rwanda.

The tourism sector which is the second largest earner of foreign direct investment to the economy suffered a big blow owing to terror attacks by the Al Shabaab militia.

But as we look into 2016, the newly appointed tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has assured positive changes with his focus being on security, product development and marketing.

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