NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 9 – Tourist numbers for air and sea travel posted a 16 percent growth to 1,039,852 between January and October of this year compared to 896,228 in the same period last year.
Minister for Tourism Najib Balala said despite this year’s unfavorable economic climate tourism revenues were still able to register high levels.
He explained that high earnings may be attributed to the 13 percent depreciation of the shilling prompting tourists to spend more money.
“The figures of receipts show a 44.4 percent increase compared to the same period last year. This is the high season now and if it continues properly without any serious interruption we’re definitely going to hit the mark of Sh100 billion,” he said.
The United Kingdom led the source market board for the period between January and October 2011 with 164,146 British passengers visiting Kenya, followed by the United States with 99,329.
Balala said the Tourism Ministry is targeting the Nordic and Scandinavian countries, particularly Poland, to attract more tourists, as the eurozone continues to show dismal signs.
“The Poland economy is the strongest in the European Union and it was not affected by the financial crisis. Our office in the Czech Republic will be relocated to Poland, handling Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia,” he said.
Diversifying from traditional markets such as Europe and the Americas to the emerging countries in the former eastern block has contributed considerably to Kenya’s tourism numbers this year.
The United Arab Emirates, Poland, Russia, Czech Republic and Hungary all registered growth above 40 percent, with increased flight access from Russia and Poland.
Europe, however, still remains the main regional source market in the quarter with a market share of 47 percent followed by Africa with 24 percent and the Americas at 13 percent.
The Ministry has already taken measures to boost its marketing budget that currently stands at Sh750 million, to begin an aggressive campaign in Europe to avert the negative effects of the eurozone crisis.
The Ministry of Finance has already given Sh200 million of a requested Sh450 million by the Tourism Ministry for a marketing campaign to refresh Kenya’s brand image following the suspected Al Shabaab attacks on foreign nationals.
Growth in tourism numbers in the month of September (7.5 percent) and October (8.8 percent) of this year slowed down due to the attacks in Lamu and Dadaab, however, Balala said the figures came in higher than in 2010 during the same period.
The 2012 elections and uncertainty surrounding an actual date, will pose a major challenge to the tourism sector, which Balala asserted must be set during the month of December.
“Cabinet has put a proposal to Parliament through a Bill to say that let’s move the election date of August to December, because 43 percent of tourism is between July and October,” he said.
Regionally, Balala said Uganda maintained its lead in the arrivals from the African region registering a 36.5 percent growth from last year, positioning itself as a lucrative tourism market for Kenya.
The Kenyan government has formulated a bilateral agreement with the Ghanaian government to lift visa bans and is looking at creating similar agreements with Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.