NAIROBI, Kenya, May 15 – Kenya last year received reduced revenues from the tourism industry as visitors stayed away from the country that was reeling from the effects of the post election violence.
Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) Acting Managing Director MariAnne Ndegwa told a media briefing on Friday that earnings from the sector dropped by 19.4 percent from Sh65.4 billion recorded in 2007 to Sh52.7 billion.
She said total tourist arrivals in the same period dipped by 40 percent to close at 1.1 million while charter flight operations and bed occupancies declined by an average of 30 percent and 65 percent respectively.
“2008 was actually the worst year in the history of Kenya’s tourism and perhaps the most challenging year for the trade. It begun with the post election violence which resulted into massive cuts in arrivals by 50 percent in the first quarter of the year compared to 2007,” she regretted.
2007 has 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 however reversed in 2008 by internal and external factors.
For instance, when the sector begun 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.
“The number of (charter) flights declined from an average of 1,533 in 2007 to 782 but the situation was further worsened by the reduction in frequency by the remaining charters,” she explained.
Arrivals from other markets such as France and Italy recorded huge slumps ranging from 40 percent to 100 percent due to the negative publicity that 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 closures of some of the properties.
Nevertheless, some key markets such as the US, 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 Barrack 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 percent in 2007 to 42 percent in 2008. This segment accounts for 30 percent 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.
The government released an additional Sh250 million to the board towards this course and by the end of 2008, the sector had picked up and recorded 70 percent of the 2007 international arrivals.
During the briefing, KTB Chairman Jake Grieves Cook however expressed optimism that the sector had recovered and would record a 10 to 15 percent growth this year.
He said the expectation is supported by the better performance recorded in the first quarter of this year where international arrivals has gone up by 40 percent.
“Although Kenya is not yet back on track, there’s a significant improvement compared to the same period in 2008. A 113 percent increase over February 2008 and an overall rise of 54 percent over March 2008 were posted,” he enthused.
Forward bookings from July onwards are also said to be streaming in at a high rate and this should help close the year with international arrivals of between 1.4 million to 1.6 million this year.