REBOUND

Kenya's tourism recovering, to hit peak in 2025 – Fitch

Rebound is pegged on increasing international travel after a slowdown last year.

In Summary

•International tourism spending expected to rise from $790 million (Sh88.2 billion) in 2021 and hit a high of $2.5 billion (Sh279.3 billion) in 2025.

•This comes after the country lost more than Sh110 billion in tourism earnings last year as the pandemic brought the industry to its knees.

Ukraine tourists arrive in Mombasa for holiday/
Ukraine tourists arrive in Mombasa for holiday/
Image: LABAN WALOGA

Kenya's tourism sector is poised for a stronger growth next year, Fitch Ratings forecasts, building on the 2021 rebound in international travel with full recovery expected by 2025.

The ratings and research firm projects a stronger growth of 47.3 per cent for 2022, as the recovery in global travel gains traction, followed by further double-digit growth through to 2025 to take international tourism arrivals to 2.2 million.

Rebound is pegged on increasing international travel after a slowdown last year, with global airlines including Kenya Airways (KQ) increasing frequencies and resumption of flights on routes that had been suspended at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, last year.

A slowdown on international travel saw Kenya's tourism industry contract by 71.3 per cent in 2020.

Top market sources for Kenya include the US, UK, Uganda, Tanzania, China, India, Germany, Rwanda, France and South Africa.

KQ resumed flights to Mumbai in September after a four-month break that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in India.

It resumed flights to London in June after Kenya was removed from the Covid related red-list by the UK, and increased frequencies to two.

It is currently recalling some of its former employees who were affected by restructuring last year, as demand for travel pick-up.

SriLankan Airlines  which commenced flights to Nairobi in April this year plans to increase its frequencies to two, a move regional manager for Middle East North and Northern Africa, Amitabh Anthonypillai, said was due to growing demand from Asia to Kenya.

Major airlines connecting Nairobi (JKIA) to the world include British Airways, Turkish Airline, Qatar, Emirates and neighbouring Ethiopian Airline.

In July, Lufthansa Group launched its first commercial flight from Frankfurt to Mombasa, increasing the number of scheduled flights to Mombasa, to two.

Eurowings Discover, the newest leisure airline within the Lufthansa Group, has two weekly flights and is expected to increase to four flights in March 2022.

Two more scheduled flights; Turkish Airline and Qatar Airways and a number of charted flights from Europe are expected to resume flying the Mombasa route.

"We expect Bulgaria , Russia and other markets to resume," said Mohammed Hersi, Pollmans' Group Operations Director.

He called for clearance of more direct flights to Mombasa from key tourist source markets.

With a rebound, albeit slow, international arrivals is projected to grow by 32 per cent this year to reach a total of 776,000. 

Kenya's Tourism Research Institute (TRI) data indicate Kenya recorded 305,635 international arrivals between January and June.

This is 262, 213 shy of the total arrival recorded in full year 2020

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala projects full recovery of the industry to be in 2024, as the country banks on reopening of global economies and travel which will allow more international tourists to visit Kenya.

The industry has been sustained mainly by the domestic market, albeit households struggling with low disposable income in the wake of job losses and pay cuts over the pandemic period.

Government had previously set a target of 2.4 million visitors by 2024 and three million by 2030, which according to Fitch, it was largely attainable in the pre-coronavirus business environment.

“In light of the Covid-19 setback, however, the government will have to work very hard to ensure a healthy rebound,” the Firm says in its report.

International tourism spending is expected to rise from $790 million (Sh88.2 billion) in 2021 and hit a high of $2.5 billion (Sh279.3 billion) in 2025.

This comes after the country lost more than Sh110 billion in tourism earnings last year as the pandemic brought the industry to its knees.

Only about Sh37 billion was realised in direct international tourists' receipts in 10 months, TRI data shows, against a projection of Sh147.5 billion for the review period.

The loss is pegged on a 72 per cent drop in international visitors during the period, as total arrivals closed at 470,971 compared to 1.7 million in the same the previous year.

Kenya's tourism industry has been prone to volatility over the past decade, mainly stemming from insecurity and stability.

The market saw negative growth over the 2012-2015 period due to political instability and terror attacks, though it rebounded steadily over the past four years with total arrivals jumping from 1.3 million in 2016 to over two million in 2019.

Our core scenario is of the industry recovering from 2021 onwards, once the virus is contained and consumer demand for travel resurfaces,” Fitch says.

The inbound market is expected to recover relatively rapidly over the medium term, though this growth is predicated on a number of factors including the successful containment of the pandemic in key source markets alongside the rollout of a vaccination programme and resumption of air travel.

It is also dependent on the economic health of source markets, many of which saw a sharp economic downturn in 2020 due to the pandemic, reserchers at Fitch note.