•The earnings are Sh42 billion short of 2018 full-year receipts of Sh157 billion, an indicator the sector will close the year stronger as the high season picks.
•The US which the world’s second largest spender remains the top market source for Kenya with 188,933 visitors in the year to September.
Foreign tourism earnings stood at Sh115.1 billion in the first nine months of the year up from Sh114.4 billion in a similar period last year, latest data shows.
While the earnings grew, there was a drop on arrivals from some key markets according to the survey by the Tourism Research Institute (TRI).
The earnings are Sh42 billion shy from the 2018 full-year receipts of Sh157 billion, an indicator the sector could close the year stronger as the high season, including the Christmas festivities, starts.
The year-on-year increase on international arrivals closed the period at 1,515,433 , just 251 more visitors more compared to last year’s 1,515,182.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport recorded an increase in traffic handling 1,064,954 visitors up from 1,007831. Mombasa International Airport however saw a drop in arrivals closing the period at 78,206 compared to 81,976.
“As per the trend in the earlier quarters of the year, arrivals via JKIA continue to register significant growth while arrivals via land borders continue to register the most significant drop,” TRI notes in its January-September Tourism Performance Report.
The drop in arrivals through Mombasa is attributed to renovation works on the main runway which commenced in February to around October.
Rwanda Air also reduced its flights to Mombasa from five weekly to two while Charter flights from Poland cut flights down to one from two.
“The main hitch was the runway where flights were not allowed to carry full load but now they can,” Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) Chairman Mohammed Hersi told the Star.
He has projected a stronger close of the year with Mombasa and the Coast region remaining a preferred holiday destination for both domestic and international tourists.
“December is looking bullish. We are very optimistic as long as the political environment remains the same, we are going to record good business,” Hersi said.
His sentiments were shared by the Kenya Association of Hotel keepers and Caterers (KAHC) which has given positive projections in hotel bookings, averaging 90 per cent at the coast.
“Occupancy is fifty-fifty from foreign and domestic owing to accessibility of the region via SGR and local airlines. Some hotels will have one hundred per cent occupancy at the peak dates of festive from 20th,"said KAHC executive officer Sam Ikwaye.
He said the school holidays has also contributed to increased numbers because the Coast is more of a family destination.
Ikwaye said some hotels, though not a significant number, were affected by the exit of Thomas Cook.
The US remains the top market source for Kenya with 188,933 visitors in the year to September, up from 174,316 last year, a 8.3 per cent growth.
Tourism CS Najib Balala is confident the sector will surpus last year’s 2,025,206 recorded arrivals.
“We are optimistic about it,” Balala said, indicating 2019 arrivals will grow by at least 10 per cent.
During the period, Uganda visitors grew 6.2 per cent to 161,963 from 152,481 last year mainly on business.
Tanzania is third despite a 12.3 per cent drop in arrivals where 142,249 visitors came to Kenya compared to 162,341 last year.
UK tourists equally dropped 3.5 per cent to close at 134,895 compared to 139,856.
France visitors increased 22.3 per cent to 40,594 compared to 33,190 last year. Other top markets for Kenya are India which brought in 93,804 visitors, China (67,687), Germany (51,849) Italy (37,362) and South Africa (34,343).
Of the 1.5 million visitors, 63.15 per cent were on holiday, while 13.5 per cent came for business. 10.6 per cent were visiting family and friends while 12.75 per cent flew in either for medical, shopping or education purpose, official data indicates.
Meanwhile, the UNWTO barometer’s analysis of key markets during the period indicates growth of outbound travel expenditure from the USA, the world’s second largest spender, remained solid, supported by a strong dollar.
In Europe, growth in spending on international tourism by France and Italy was robust, though the United Kingdom and Germany reported more moderate growth.
Among the Asian markets, growth in spending from Japan was strong while the Republic of Korea spent less in the first half of 2019, partly due to the depreciation of the Korean won.
“International tourism continues to perform strongly worldwide fuelled by a positive economy, increased air capacity and visa facilitation”, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili notes.