Kenya is safe for travel – Balala

The Maasai Mara is currently one of the places with high visitor traffic.

In Summary

•International arrivals to Kenya are projected to recover by up to 75% this year.

•The ministry targets to have at least 1,027,151 international arrivals this year with earnings expected to increase to Sh172.9 billion, up from Sh146.5 billion last year.

Tourists arrive at Moi International Airport, Mombasa/
Tourists arrive at Moi International Airport, Mombasa/
Image: FILE

Kenya is safe for travel, Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has assured the world.

This is on the back of a peaceful election period where despite the Presidential results being contested, the country has remained calm with the different sectors of the economy up and running.

“Kenya is among the top destinations in Africa. Kenya is safe for travel. Welcome to Magical Kenya,” Balala wrote on his Twitter handle which has a huge following including tourism and travel industry players and marketers.

His assurance comes as the country enters the full stretch of the tourism sector’s peak season, which runs between July and August.

The Maasai Mara is currently one of the places with high visitor traffic with both local and international tourists witnessing this year’s wildebeest migration.

The movement of animals between Serengeti and the Maasai Mara, across the Mara River, usually occurs around late July to August and stretches to parts of September. 

Their return south is normally around the last two weeks of October through early November.

Hotels in the Mara are experiencing a boom.

“This year will definitely be better than last year,” Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers Caterers (KAHC) chief executive Mike Macharia told the Star.

Kenya has embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign after a slow down in travel for the past two years, occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ministry is banking on the five-year tourism strategy launched in May to steer the sector into full recovery.

Dubbed “the new vision for Kenya’s tourism” the strategy seeks to diversify the country’s tourism products, moving away from the traditional beach and safari.

Kenya Tourism Board(KTB) is also spearheading marketing campaigns with at least 10 new markets in mind, as the country targets more than one million arrivals this year.

This is after a 53.3 per cent increase in the number of international arrivals last year which closed at 870,465 up from 567,848 in 2020.

The best year remains 2019 when the country recorded an all-time high arrival of 2.2 million international visitors.

The country is now focusing on untapped markets, Tourism and Wildlife CS Najib Balala says, with the focus mainly in Europe.

These include France, Sweden, Poland, Mexico, Israel, Iran, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands and Belgium.

While they are not new markets, low marketing activities has denied the country to fully tap into them, with numbers remaining low.

Last year, arrivals were 18,771 (France), 10,107 (Sweden), 9,809 (Poland), 1,972 (Mexico), 2,572 (Israel), 1,809 (Iran), 3,376 (Australia), 6,535 (Switzerland), 12,928 (Netherlands) and 5,697 visitors from Belgium.

The sector has shown recovery signs so far this year according ton CS Balala.

International arrivals to Kenya are projected to recover by up to 75 per cent this year.

The first half of the year recorded a strong performance where foreign visitors more than doubled to above 430,000, compared to the 222,765 visitors who came into the country in the same period last year.

“The sector is doing vey well. The 2023-2024 will be a full recovery of our 2019 numbers but in terms of earnings, we have already seen this year’s tourism revenues will surpass 2019,” Balala said.

The ministry targets to have at least 1,027,151 international arrivals this year with earnings expected to increase to Sh172.9 billion, up from Sh146.5 billion last year.

The accommodation and food service activities sector is estimated to have expanded by 56.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2022, from a contraction of 33.0 per cent in the same quarter of 2021.

“The sector continued with its upward trajectory after relaxation of the Covid-19 measures,” KNBS says in its latest quarterly report.

In the first four months (January-April), total arrivals were 305,923 which is more than double the 152, 624 arrivals in the same period last year, Central Bank of Kenya data shows.

The US remains the top market source for total arrivals with 136,981 of its citizens visiting Kenya last year, where holiday and family visits were the main reasons.

Uganda was the second top source with 80,067 visitors while Tanzania took the third spot with 74,051 arrivals.

Others were 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.

Since the onset of the pandemic, domestic tourists have been key in keeping the sector afloat, a trend expected to continue this year, with Mombasa, Diani and the Maasai Mara remaining top on the list of places being frequented by Kenyans.

Last year, the domestic market helped increase bed occupancy which went up to a total of 4,138,821 compared to same period in 2020 (2,575,812), recording a recovery of 60.7 per cent.

Room nights recorded a positive growth with more than 3.1 million ealised as compared to 1.9 million same period in 2020. This is a growth of 55.3 per cent.

"I believe the domestic market will remain key. I want to thank Kenyans for supporting the tourism sector,” Balala said.

The ministry is targeting an annual record of five million international tourists by 2025.

This will be driven by innovation, adoption of technology, product development and up-skilling of personnel, according to the tourism ministry.

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