The African continent is home to over 1 billion people, roughly 13% of the World’s estimated population. It produces more than 60 metal and mineral products, several of which are the World’s most important including Diamonds, Gold, Uranium, Nickel, Cobalt and Platinum Group Elements (PGEs), to name a few. This is a major attribute that has attracted business from the rest of the World to this continent.
Further, the continent is home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the World, with many Countries enjoying growth rates of 7% and above year-on-year. This is in contrast to the overall economic slowdown in other developing and emerging regions of the World.
From this prevailing scenario, the tourism industry stands the best chance to thrive. The sector is one of the fastest developing enterprises in Africa, presenting major investment opportunities and a source of foreign exchange earnings. According to the UNWTO Tourism Highlights, 2016 Edition, Africa contributed 3% to the global 2015 arrivals which translates to 36 million arrivals. This shows that Africa is not only a destination but also a source market. Kenya’s tourism industry is increasingly reaping from the emerging trends in the African market place; strong business, cultural and linguistic ties between African countries makes intra-regional travel a vibrant market for growth.
Even though Europe remains the leading tourism source market for Kenya, the performance and its market share have been steadily declining over time. This may have been caused by various factors such as the global economic crunch which led to changing consumer travel behaviors such as preferences to travel to short-haul destinations rather to long-haul destinations. Europe’s market share based on visitor arrivals over the period January 2014 to July 2014 in comparison to the same period in 2016, has recorded a declining trend. Over the 2014 period under review (January-July), Europe’s market share based on total visitor arrivals stood at 42%. In 2015 and 2016 over the same period, Europe’s market share dropped to 36% and 34% respectively of the total visitor arrivals.
In contrast, Africa’s tourism visitor arrivals in to Kenya has shown a remarkable upward growth in the last 3 years, with key source markets such as Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria Ethiopia and Rwanda making the greatest contribution to this positive growth. Over the period January to July 2014, Africa’s market share stood at 23% of the total visitor arrivals in to Kenya. Over the same period in 2015 and 2016, this rose to 26% and 28% respectively.
The Kenya Tourism Board has identified the Africa market as an important tourism source market that will support the increase in tourist arrivals in to Kenya as well as growing the tourism revenue receipts. This however does not mean that our traditional tourism source markets are no longer important. Indeed they do remain an important part of our destination marketing strategy. However, the Kenya Tourism Board has taken a strategic focus on Africa and has recognized that the largest source of tourism arrivals growth in to Kenya will come from the region and mainly from our immediate neighboring Countries; Uganda, Ethiopia and Rwanda. Ease of accessibility to Kenya either via air or road, similar lifestyles and easier entry facilitation are among the strong attributes that will support growth from these regional markets.
Uganda, Kenya’s top tourism source market from the region, recorded a growth in the first 7 months of 2016 of 20% over the same period in 2016 (29,153 to 35,019). South Africa over the same period recorded a 17.6% growth in 2016 over 2015 (27,353 to 32,181). Nigeria over the same period recorded a 20.8% increase in 2016 over 2015 (13,761 to 16,627). Rwanda posted a 9.3% growth in the first 7 months of 2016 over the same period in 2015 (10,765 to 11,770).
As we look at further growing the tourism contributions in to Kenya for the Africa market, the Kenya Tourism Board will continue to employ various marketing strategies aimed at wooing more visitors; repeat and first time visitors. These strategies will include continuing to strengthen our marketing partnership with our national carrier Kenya Airways through carrying out joint consumer and trade promotions in key markets as well using the Kenya Airways offices in these markets as a one-stop shop where potential visitors to Kenya can get information on the destination. Other Africa focused marketing strategies will involve social media and online media campaigns to effectively reach the consumers directly, as well as key trade and media familiarization tours of Kenya so as to showcase our diverse tourism offerings.
Jimi Kariuki is the Chairman of Kenya Tourism Board