UPBEAT

Tourist numbers to hit 2.2 million in 2019–Balala

The US remains Kenya's top tourism market source

In Summary

• Tourism ministry putting up strategy to capture Russia, China and Indian markets as international markets remain positive.

• CS Balala worried over low numbers from the East Africa region.

Tourism Cabinet secretary Najib Balala during the 6th Africa’s Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO) Conference at Whitesands Hotel. /JOHN CHESOLI
Tourism Cabinet secretary Najib Balala during the 6th Africa’s Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO) Conference at Whitesands Hotel. /JOHN CHESOLI

The number of international tourists is expected to grow by 10 per cent from last year's, CS Najib Balala has said, despite a slight drop in the first half.

The projection is pegged on a strong performance by the US market which grew by 9.4 per cent in the first half of the year to close at 110,668 compared to 101,167 same period last year.

Other well performing markets include France, China and Uganda, which was the second top source after the US.

Balala's 10 per cent projection now places this year's expected arrivals at 2.2 million up from 2,025,206 reported in 2018, the highest ever number of arrivals in the country's tourism history.

The American market is still growing , that is our key market, we are also putting emphasis in the Chinese market where have a strategy for the market,” Balala said in Nairobi yesterday during the launch of the Kenya Tourism Satellite Account, a tool for establishing the sector's total contribution to the economy.

The ministry is also developing a strategy for the Russian and Indian markets which are expected to boost numbers. Kenya is further befitting from a deviation of European tourists from North Africa which has suffered political instability in the wake of the recent Arab spring.

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.

During the period, the US led as the top market source followed by Uganda, where arrivals grew 3.7 per cent to 103,177 up from 99,459. Tanzania came in third despite a 14 per cent drop to 92,340 from 107,411.

Strong performance form the US is an indication that among other factors, the direct flight to New York is having a substantial positive impact on tourism.

China numbers gained slightly to close the period at 32,829 up from 32,620, official data by the Tourism Research Institute(TRI) show. France equally grew by 17.7 per cent to a total of 25,584 visitors compared to 21,737 last year.

Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, India and South Africa however dropped in the first half, partly blamed on the January 15, Dusit D2 terrorist attack.The East Africa region is however Balala's major concern.

My worry is that probably the cross border numbers have not shown any positive increase from last year,” Balala said.

The current political stability and heightened security are expected to support the industry's perfomance going forward.

According to TRI acting CEO David Gitonga, tour operators have reported an early onset of the high season with the wildebeest migration having started early.

“This this could help boost the numbers in the second half of the year,” he said yesterday.