RECOVERY

Tourism sector upbeat as foreign visitors increase

​The number of visitors to national parks and game reserves increased from 1.0 million in 2020 to 1.5 million in 2021.

In Summary

•The government has forecast the numbers to reach 1.03 million by end of coming financial year starting July 1.

•The numbers are still sharply lower than pre-pandemic levels, against 2 million in 2019.

Mombasa County officials from the tourism department receive second group of 180 tourists from Ukraine who jetted in at Moi International Airport Mombasa
TOURISM BOOM: Mombasa County officials from the tourism department receive second group of 180 tourists from Ukraine who jetted in at Moi International Airport Mombasa
Image: File

Kenya's tourism sector pulled out of the Covid-19 induced slump to record a 50.3 per cent increase in international visitors in 2021, latest official date shows.

According to the Economic Survey 2022 released on Thursday, annual foreign visitor arrivals increased from 579,600 in 2020 to 871,300 in 2021. 

This was mainly driven by the easing of travel restrictions  including the reopening of air spaces following months of closure to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

However, the numbers are still much lower than pre-pandemic levels, which hit a high of two million in 2019.

The government has forecast the number of foreign visitors to reach 1.03 million by the end of the 2022/23 financial year.

In the 2022/23 budget, the National Treasury allocated Sh15.8 billion to stimulate tourism recovery with the Tourism Promotion Fund receiving Sh Sh1.8 billion.

Even so, re-emergence of new Covid-19 variants in China heightened by the prevailing political environment, may suppress 2022 growth prospects.

Through the Magical Kenya marketing programme, the government has been urged to continue to implement initiatives to market Kenya as a tourist destination to sustain momentum in the recovery of the still fragile  sector.

Treasury CS Ukur Yatani said provision of soft loans to hotels through the Tourism Finance Corporation (TFC), helped to jumpstart the sector while protecting its players from heavy financial losses.

In 2020, local resorts, which normally concentrate their marketing efforts on foreign tourists, were forced to turn to the domestic market by the pandemic, offering cut rates to entice holidaymakers.

Industry data shows Kenya’s tourism earnings grew by 65.4 percent last year to Sh146.51 billion compared to Sh88.56 billion in 2020.

Visitor arrivals through Jomo Kenyatta international Airport and Moi International Airport was 692,000, recording a 59.6 per cent increase from 2020.

Arrivals through other Kenyan boarders increased by 22.6 per cent to 178,000.

Overall, the bed nights occupancy increased by 45.1 per cent to 5.5 million in 2021.​The number of visitors to national parks and game reserves increased from 1.0 million in 2020 to 1.5 million in 2021.

​The number of visitors to national parks and game reserves increased from 1.0 million in 2020 to 1.5 million in 2021.

From safaris in the Maasai Mara and other wildlife reserves to holidays on Indian Ocean beaches, Kenya's tourism industry contributes about 10 per cent of economic output and employs over two million people.

The sector shed nearly 1.2 million jobs after the onset of the pandemic, the tourism ministry said, but it has started to claw back some of those losses on the back of the tentative recovery.

Other sectors of the economy flourished in 2021, the value added by Kenya's Information and Communication Technology (ICT) increased by 7.2 per cent from Sh274.7 billion to Sh294.4 billion in 2021.