IMPACT

Covid hit 1.2m jobs in Kenya’s tourism last year– report

Arrivals however increased 53.2% as earnings rose to Sh146bn

In Summary

•This job losses came with a Sh152.4 billion loss in labour income.

•However, the sector, which is among the worst hit by the pandemic showed recovery signs with international arrivals increasing to a total 870,465, up from 567,848 in 2020.

Tourism Research Institute acting CEO David Gitonga Tourism CS Najib Balala and Cabinet Administrative Secretary Joseph Boinnet during the launch of the Annual Tourism Sector performance report 2021, at a Nairobi Hotel/ FREDRICK OMONDI
Tourism Research Institute acting CEO David Gitonga Tourism CS Najib Balala and Cabinet Administrative Secretary Joseph Boinnet during the launch of the Annual Tourism Sector performance report 2021, at a Nairobi Hotel/ FREDRICK OMONDI

At least 1.2 million full-time jobs were lost last year on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, a report by the Tourism and Wildlife Ministry indicates.

This came with a Sh152.4 billion loss in labour income as employers in the industry cut operations on low visitor numbers.

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, both international and domestic tourism faced near collapse leading to substantial job losses across all the tourism sub-sectors,” the report," the report says.

The report was compiled by the Tourism Research Institute (TRI) and launched by Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala in Nairobi, yesterday.

Shopping, accommodation, passenger transport, food and drinks, and attractions reported the highest job losses.

However, the sector, which is among the worst hit by the pandemic showed recovery signs with international arrivals increasing 53.3 per cent, to 870,465, up from 567,848 in 2020.

The numbers almost doubled tourism earnings to Sh146.5 billion, up from Sh88.6 billion the previous year.

The African market drove international arrivals with five of the top ten sources being from the continent, including Somalia.

The US retained its position as the top market source with a total of 139,981 arrivals in the year, with holiday and family visits being the main reasons.

Uganda was the second top source with 80,067 of its citizens visiting Kenya.

Tanzania took the third spot with 74,051 arrivals followed by the UK (53,264), India (42,159), China(31,610), Germany (27,620), Somalia (26,270), Nigeria (25,399) while Rwanda closed the top ten list with 24,665 visitors to Kenya.

According to Balala, the performance was undermined by the upsurge of the Delta variant of Covid-19 during the first quarter but registered steady growth from June to December.

This is an indication of a steadily growing trust for the Magical Kenya destination, which can be credited to renewed marketing efforts as well as confidence on the country’s efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The growth was also supported by innovative products offered to both domestic and international markets by major players mainly hotels and domestic airlines, the ministry notes.

Hosting of major sporting events specifically the WRC – Safari Rally and the World Athletics Under 20 also helped rebuild confidence on destination Kenya.

“The 34.76 per cent increase indicates that we are on an upward trajectory. The numbers are still low, but we are optimistic that we will eventually go back to our all-time high international visitor arrivals that is 2019, or even surpass it," CS Balala said.

Out of the 870,465 international arrivals, 299,802 (34.44%) were on holiday,

257,357 (29.57%) visiting family or friends and 229,804 came for business and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Exhibitions, and Conferences).

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport remains the major point of entry with 644,194, Moi International Airport 48,749, and others 177,522.

In January to September 2021, the bed occupancy rates increased to a total of 4,138,821 as compared to the same period in 2020 (2,575,812), recording a recovery of 60.7 per cent.

This sustained recovery of the hospitality sector was largely supported by domestic travellers (domestic bed nights grew by 101.3% while international bed nights grew by 0.05%).

Tourism numbers are expected to continue growing this year amid a projected 5.9 per cent percent economic growth from five per cent last year, and a contraction of 0.3 per cent in 2020.

According to Balala, arrivals are expected to go above the one million mark with receipts (earnings) projected at least Sh172.9 billion.

The ministry has lined up a number of marketing campaigns and positioning Kenya as leading tourist destination, which the ministry is banking on to drive arrivals and revenue.

Industry players are hoping the political environment in Kenya ahead of the August general elections will remain conducive for businesses to continue, and that it will not affect the tourism industry.

"We have an economy beyond August,"Balala said, calling for a peaceful electioneering period that will not hurt the economy.