Hard times for tourism sector, but hope glimmers

May 4, 2016
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Even the visit by US President Barack Obama during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit last July, the Papal Visit and the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference did not make matters better/FILE
Even the visit by US President Barack Obama during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit last July, the Papal Visit and the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference did not make matters better/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 4 – Kenya’s tourism sector is yet to make a full recovery despite the government’s calculated efforts to take it back to its former glory.

Last year for instance, international arrivals were down to 1.18 million from the previous year’s 1.35 million marking a 12.6 percent decline.

Tourism earnings dipped to Sh84.6 billion from Sh87.1 billion in 2014, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) in its latest edition of the Economic Survey.

The bureau attributes security concerns, particularly at the coastal region, and the negative travel advisories from some European source markets to have been the crux of the matter.

“Both visitor arrivals and tourism earnings have been on a downward trend since 2011. This was mainly attributed to security concerns associated with terrorism activities,” says the 2016 Economic Survey.

But that’s not all; the aftermath of the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa in 2014 was noted to have slowed international visitor arrivals in the country last year.

Even the visit by US President Barack Obama during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit last July, the Papal Visit and the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference did not make matters better.

The government however ran to the sector’s rescue with an increased budgetary allocation to the ministry from Sh5.6 billion in 2014/2015 to Sh10.7 billion in 2015/2016.

“The funds were used to market Kenya as a preferred tourism destination. The government also created a stand-alone Ministry of Tourism, which is intended to focus more on issues that directly affect the sector.”

The cash injection however did not stop bed occupancy and the number of visitors to national parks and game reserves from going down.

Broken down, bed occupancy by residents of Europe went down by 23.6 percent. “The highest decline was registered for residents of Italy from 156,200 in 2014 to 74,100 in 2015.”

The coastal beach also noted to have dropped occupancy from 2.52 million to 2.11 million in 2015. Bed-nights occupied in Nairobi high class hotels were also noted to have dropped.

Kenya Tourism Board’s Acting CEO Jacinta Nzioka-Mbithi while responding to the survey acknowledged that insecurity challenges have indeed branded the Kenya as a tour destination negatively.

She spoke about the government’s proactive role on security measures saying that the country is now enjoying peace.

“This will definitely lead to positive brand profile of our nation, a pulling factor for travellers and investors alike. Indeed as a result of security that has been improved the response from our source markets is positive, thereby giving us a positive outlook in as far as tourism business is concerned,” she added.

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