NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 26 – Kenya’s tourism earnings in 2009 rose by 18 percent to Sh62.4 billion up from Sh52 billion realised in 2008.
The Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) attributed the improved performance to a 30.7 percent rise in international tourist arrivals over this period.
Releasing the results on Friday, KTB Managing Director Mureithi Ndegwa said tourist number stood at 952,841 up form 2008 levels of 729,000.
“The 2009 results resonate well with our strategic plan to recover the numbers of 2007. As you will note that the sector surpassed our projections for the year,” Mr Ndegwa said.
2007 remains Kenya’s best performing year in terms of tourism accounting for Sh65.4 billion shillings with one million tourists.
The growth was however checked by effects of the post election violence in early 2008. This was followed by the global financial crisis which further dented progress in the tourism sector. Mr Ndegwa said aggressive marketing campaigns over the last two years have helped the country get back on track.
“A lot of reassurance missions were done and people went down to the source markets reassuring the tourists that Kenya is safe and an ideal destination for them to experience,” he said.
The improved performance comes at a time the global trend indicated a four percent decrease in tourist activity. Mr Ndegwa was however encouraged by the five percent growth in Africa indicating the emergence of Africa as a competitive tourist market.
The UK remained Kenya’s major source market with 164,149 tourists. The United States of America came in a close second accounting for 102,252 tourists.
Mr Ndegwa expressed optimism that the country’s new markets such as India, China and the UAE would play a significant role in growing tourist numbers in the coming years. Market diversification strategies are expected to grow the number by between three to four percent in 2010.
“We believe 2010 is going to be a much better year as we intensify our marketing activities both locally and abroad,” he said.
Nairobi was the busiest entry point for tourists controlling 84 percent of total arrivals with Mombasa representing 16 percent.
KTB Chairman Jake Grieves-Cooks said the government needs to intensify efforts of making the Coast an attractive destination for tourists and compete with established beach destinations.
“We need for the ferry system to be improved significantly and immediately if we are to see increased activity in the coastal region,” Mr Grieves-Cooks said.
The hotel and tourism sector remains a major player in the country’s economy with analysts touting it as one of the drivers of growth in 2010.
KTB is also set to launch a Jambo Campaign that would be airing advertisements for Kenya\’s tourist spots on two international media channels, the BBC and EuroNews.