•Tourism CS Najib Balala has expressed confidence the numbers will grow by at least 10 per cent from the 2,025,206 recorded in 2018.
•There has however been a drop in arrivals from UK, a key market source for Kenya’s tourism industry.
The tourism ministry has expressed confidence in hitting a new international tourist arrival record this year despite a drop in some key markets in the year to September.
Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala yesterday expressed confidence the numbers will grow by at least 10 per cent from the 2,025,206 recorded in 2018.
This means this year’s arrivals are likely to hit a new record 2.2 million with the US market-leading as a key source of tourists.
“We are optimistic about it,” Balala told the Star in a telephone conversation.
So far, last year’s arrivals remain the highest in the country’s history.
“We are projecting a higher number this year. The American market has shown growth while other markets such as China look positive,” the CS said, “It’s a projection.”
The Tourism Research Institute (TRI) data shows the US market has grown 8.3 per cent in the year to September closing quarter three at 188,933, compared to 174,316 recorded in a similar period last year.
This comes in the wake of increased frequency on Kenya Airways flights between the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport.
KQ, as it is know by its international code, has completed 594 flights to and from New York since the launch of inaugural flight on October 28 last year.
According to Chairman Michael Joseph, at least 105,084 passengers have been flown on the route in the past one year, with the airline increasing frequency on the route in June this year from five days a week to seven days a week on return.
Uganda is the second largest market source for the country’s tourist arrivals having grown from 152,481 in September last year to 161,963 visitors in nine months this year.
The ministry, through lead marketing agency-Kenya Tourism Board has been on a charm offensive to also increase numbers from China, Russia and India.
“We are putting emphasis in the Chinese market where we have a strategy for the market,” Balala said, “We are also developing a strategy for the Russian and Indian markets which are expected to boost numbers.”
Balala’s projection however could be dimmed by a drop in numbers from the UK, a key market source for the country. Arrivals from the European destination dropped 3.5 per cent to 134,895 in the year to September compared to 139,856 same period last year.
Arrivals from neighbouring Tanzania also dropped to 142,249 visitors in the period under review compared to 162,341 the same period last year.
Kenya is however befitting from a deviation of European tourists from North Africa which has suffered political instability in the wake of the recent Arab spring.
The ministry is positive the November-December high season will boost numbers which will help meet the new target record.
According to TRI acting CEO David Gitonga, tour operators reported an early onset of the high season which commenced with the wildebeest migration, with the December holidays being a peak time.
“This will help boost the numbers in the second half of the year,” Gitonga said.
The total number of international visitors in the first half year of 2019 was 921,090, a 0.7 per cent drop compared to 927,797 same period in 2018.