NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 13 – Kenya’s tourism sector is headed towards a nose-dive after the United States, which is currently Kenya’s leading tourism source market, banned all international flights to control the novel coronavirus.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said Friday that the sector would surely run to ruins, should source markets such as UK and France ban their citizens from touring Kenya.
“If you see the number of people who are arriving at JKIA, the number are very low, so already we are feeling the effect of it. It is going to affect us, luckily, we are entering into the low season. But we are looking at what is our plan after the low season, what is our plan post corona?” the CS wondered.
Already, tourism source markets such as China and Italy have been banned from touring other countries such as Kenya over the virus that has claimed at least 4,000 lives and crippled major operations around the world.
According to the Tourism Sector Performance report by Kenya Tourism Board, the US is Kenya’s leading and best-performing tourism source market with a market share of 11.12 percent of total international arrivals to Kenya.
Tourist arrivals from the U.S. market have been on a steady increase over the last five years, topping 225,157 as of 2018.
The UK had historically been the country’s lead source market for tourists; in 2018, KTB says 184,002 British nationals visited Kenya, to become Kenya’s fourth source market.
China is another key source market and is currently Kenya’s fifth biggest tourism source market internationally and the second biggest source market in Asia.
It contributed 5.5 percent of total international tourist arrivals to Kenya in 2018. The number of tourist arrivals from China to Kenya in 2018 grew by 4.03 percent to 81,709.
The report ranked France 10th in 2018, with 48,189 tourists.
Balala’s remarks comes a day after he said the government had set aside Sh500 million to help the industry recover from the impact of coronavirus.
Balala told tourism stakeholders that part of the money would be used to restore confidence in Kenya as a preferred travel destination.
The rest, Balala said, would be used for the post Coronavirus recovery strategy in all of Kenya’s key source markets.
The blow on the sector comes at a time when the industry was recovering from a wave of Islamist assaults in the last decade.
Last year, earnings from the sector rose 3.9 percent to Sh163.56 billion, attributable to a slight increase in the number of visitors.
Along with agricultural exports and money sent home by Kenyans living abroad, tourism remains to be one of the country’s top foreign exchange-earners.