PANDEMIC

Kenya's tourism sector in limbo as coronavirus enter Europe

According to the Kenya Tourism Sector Performance Report for 2019, total arrivals increased 116 basis points to record a new high of 2.04 million compared to 2,025,206 recorded in 2018.

In Summary
  • The virus is causing mayhem in China, France and Italy among top ten key markets for tourists to Kenya.

     

  • Number of confirmed cases in Northern Italy rose sharply on Tuesday to hit 229 from just three last Friday, with seven deaths reported.
Tourists taking lunch at Voyager hotel in Mombasa on March 6, 2016.Photo Elkana Jacob
Tourists taking lunch at Voyager hotel in Mombasa on March 6, 2016.Photo Elkana Jacob

Kenya's tourism sector is likely to feel the heat of the coronavirus which has since spread its wings to Europe, with Italy, main source of tourists to Malindi recording causalities.

Number of confirmed cases in Northern Italy rose sharply on Tuesday to hit 229 from just three last Friday, with seven deaths reported.

The rising spread of the virus in Asia and Europe, major tourism source for Kenya got Central Bank Governor Patrick Njoroge thinking, this, after France announced a probable 30-40 per cent decline in tourists arrival.

''This is a call to arms for the G20 and particularly the G7, to speak in one voice and act in concert,'' Njoroge tweeted.

He added that he hopes for a a communique which will give some hope that the global economy is not rudderless from the G20 meeting over the weekend.

Although no coronavirus case has been reported in US, leading tourists market for Kenya, the virus which has since been declared as 'public health emergency of international concern' by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is already causing mayhem in China, France and Italy among top ten key markets for tourists to Kenya.

According to the Kenya Tourism Sector Performance Report for 2019, total arrivals increased 116 basis points to record a new high of 2.04 million compared to 2,025,206 recorded in 2018.

Arrivals from US grew nine per cent last year to close at 245,437 arrivals, up from 225,157 in the previous year followed by Uganda and Tanzania at 223,010 and 193,740 respectively.

Other key sources are the UK with 181,484, India at 122,649, China 84,208, Germany 73,1509, France 54,979, Italy 54,607 and South Africa closing top ten bracket with 46,926 arrivals.

Although the country's Tourism cabinet secretary Najib Balala in January projected a more than 10 per cent growth in the sector this year pegged on product development and diversification, experts think otherwise in the wake of the virus.

Speaking to the Star on phone, Kenya Tourism Federation chair Mohammed Hersi said the virus is a pandemic globally but it is too early to predict the impact it might have on the country's tourism sector that brought in Sh160 billion last year.

According to Hersi, the virus is spreading at an alarming rate, affecting movements globally, with negative spiral effect to the global tourism sector.

He is however hopeful that a remedy will be found soon, adding while it is spreading faster, causalities are less than one per cent.

''Even though the virus is a mystery, the world needs some optimism, considering that several people have healed from it. W e must also look of the brighter side to inspire social economic growth,'' Hersi said.

At least 80,000 people had tested positive of the virus globally by end of business Tuesday, with more than 2,700 people died globally, according to WHO.

Hersi's thoughts are shared by Leopard Beach Resort and Spa MD Kioko Musyoki in Diani who says although it is quite early to quantify the impact, the spread of the virus to Europe could have a devastating impact on Kenya.

According to him, the virus has affected Chinese numbers that frequent Masai Mara especially after Kenya Airways halted flights to the Asian state. Very few Chinese visitors explore the Coastal leisure sub sector.

He is however worried that the spread of the virus to Europe, especially Italy which is the second best market for leisure tourists after Germany will hurt occupancy rate if the virus is not contained.

''We receive most leisure tourists from Italy. The spread of the virus to the country is tragic for our business. We hope for a lasting solution,''Kioko said.