, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 31 – Kenya’s tourism sector has recorded a 16 percent rise in international arrivals for the first quarter of 2010.
Between January and April visitor arrivals stood at 336,179 compared to 280,518 over a similar period last year.
Releasing the results on Monday, Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) Managing Director Mureithi Ndegwa attributed the growth to market diversification efforts that have seen emerging markets such as China, India and the Gulf region play a major role.
“In terms of activities in the emerging markets we knew that the growth is not only going to come from traditional markets but from these new markets which are recording substantial growth,” Mr Ndegwa said.
Mr Ndegwa said KTB would focus on improving local tourism involvement in the future, and expect arrivals to surpass the one million mark realised in 2007.
“We have done so much in the international market and we feel that it is also important for the local market to get to know what Kenya has to offer,” he said.
His sentiments come soon after the Ministry of Tourism handed KTB the responsibility of marketing the local circuit.
The increase in arrivals spells good news for the tourism industry, which is the third largest foreign exchange earner for the country. In 2009, tourism raked in Sh62.46 billion up from Sh52.71 billion a year earlier and was at the forefront of gross domestic product growth in 2010 (2.6 percent).
KTB Chairman Jake Grieves-Cook said he was optimistic of better growth in 2010.
“Our target is to fly in more than one million tourists which translates to slightly close to Sh1 billion,” Mr Grieves-Cook said.
He added that the major challenge for the industry was the lack of direct flights to high potential regions. He pointed out that while the national carrier Kenya Airways flew to major destinations there were not many international airlines making similar trips.
“There is a disparity between the accesses for international visitors and it is very important we concentrate on those flights and we try and encourage more airlines to fly into Kenya,” he said.
The KTB chairman also highlighted the need to upgrade tourism facilities at the Coast which have come under pressure over the years.
Also speaking during the release of the results, acting Tourism Permanent Secretary Eunice Miima said the ministry was looking towards getting a Sh2 billion budget during the 2010/2011 financial year.
“Most of this money will go into developing new products as well as upgrading the tourism infrastructure,” she said.