7 November 2017

Kenya: Tourism Posts 10% Growth Despite Lean Political Times

Kenya's tourism sector defied electoral flare-ups to post a 10 per cent growth, with 723,000 tourists coming in between January and September.

This is an increase from 657,438 tourists who visited the country in the same period in 2016.

Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) chairman Jimi Kariuki said the country had run short of vans due to an influx of visitors seeking to see the country's wildlife.

"For instance, August, which is our peak tourism month, saw a shortage of vehicles due to high demand for safari transport, with many lodges and camps registering high occupancy rates from a mix of both Kenyan and international visitors," he said.

Dubai-based market research firm Oxford Business Group (OBG) said Kenya's tourism industry had shrugged off the bad post-election reputation, retaining its position as Africa's top investment destination.

While international media platforms across the globe broadcast ugly scenes of violent protests, hotel bookings continued to grow. "The political uncertainty has not affected international arrival numbers or hotel bookings. This is good news," it observed.

OBG, which provides market prediction data to corporate investors in various sectors, said opening of a 127-roomed five star hotel at Two Rivers Mall in Kiambu, with another 13 hotels under construction, would see Kenya's room capacity grow by 2,400 in the next three years.

It said the South African hospitality group's strategy of growing its footprint in Kenya to three, after taking over Fairview Hotel and Town Lodge, recently confirmed their confidence with Nairobi as a regional hub. Mr Kariuki said Kenya's rise from an explosive electioneering period had dumbfounded many people, creating a new interest among potential visitors.

"Tourism is sensitive to negative publicity, politics and security. Threats of violence or actual violence could hurt tourist arrivals. The political noise should die off to enable the industry to attract investments," he said.

Mr Kariuki said recent advisories by the UK government to its citizens not to travel to western Kenya was a clear statement that other areas were safe.

According to the UN World Tourism Organisation, Kenya hosted 1.3 million tourists who spent Sh100 billion last year, a 17 per cent increase from the Sh85 billion spent in 2015.

The report noted that Kenya's hospitality segment was set for brighter times, with room revenues projected to increase by 3.5 per cent this year. The same trend is expected to continue at an annual compound annual growth of 7.5 per cent until 2021.

"Additional air services to Kenya, economic stability and rising demand in the domestic travel segment will spur an increase in guest nights. 2017 has validated the bullish optimism of hotel investors. Visitor numbers to Kenya increased by 12.6 per cent between January and July, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

"The strong performance means Kenya is on track to surpass the 1.3 million arrivals posted last year, which in turn represented a 10 per cent rise on the 2015 total, when security concerns saw tourist numbers fall to 1.18 million," it said.

The government has since sanctioned a Sh700 million 30-month incentive for tourist charter planes that ends next June, where landing fees at Moi International Airport and Malindi Airport in Kilifi County were waived.

Passengers terminating their journey at the two airports for holiday also enjoy a Sh3,000 subsidy. This has attracted charter operators from Italy, Germany and Poland, with Dutch charter operator TUI Netherlands also announcing its intention to resume direct flights to Mombasa after a three-year absence.


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