Kenya's tourism earnings rise marginally to Sh163.5 billion

In Summary

• The UK recorded a drop in growth, attributed to Brexit.

Tourism CS Najib Balala during the release of the sector report on Friday, January 10, 2020.
Tourism CS Najib Balala during the release of the sector report on Friday, January 10, 2020.
Image: DOUGLAS OKIDDY

Kenya’s earnings from tourism rose 3.9 per cent last year to Sh163.56 billion, thanks to a slight increase in the number of visitors, CS Najib Balala has said.

International arrivals totalled 2,048,833, in the year to December.

This was a rise, compared to 2,025,206 recorded in 2018.

US remains the top market source for Kenya, with arrivals from America at 245,437, which is a growth compared to 225,157 in 2018.

Balala on Friday attributed the growth of the US market to direct flights by Kenya Airways.

Meanwhile, the UK recorded a drop in growth, attributed to Brexit.

Total revenue from the sector grew by 3.9% to Sh163.6 billion, up compared to Sh157.4billion in 2018.

"This is very positive for our economy," Balala said during the release of the sector's 2019 performance report.

"We have done a lot of campaigns globally which have continued to bear fruit."

An attack on a hotel and office complex in Nairobi last January, and a general slowdown in the global tourism business, were to blame for the low growth in arrival numbers, Balala said.

Along with agricultural exports and money sent home by Kenyans living abroad, tourism is one of the top foreign exchange earners.

Kenya has a variety of products, from beach holidays at the coast to Safaris in the Maasai Mara wildlife reserve, but it attracts fewer visitors than African competitors like South Africa due to frequent political upheavals and insurgent attacks.

Between 2012 and 2015, visitor numbers and tourism earnings fell after a spate of attacks claimed by Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, which wants Nairobi to pull its troops out of Somalia.

A reduction in attacks in the years that followed allowed the sector to rebound.