•The numbers are expected to grow to 2.2 million in 2024.
•The country’s best year currently remains 2019 when arrivals hit a high of 2.04 million visitors with earnings of Sh296.2 billion.
Kenya is targeting travel agents in a renewed strategy to grow international tourist arrivals, with numbers projected to nearly double this year and triple next year.
Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Peninah Malonza on Wednesday said the government will collaborate with agents to drive the numbers.
"We can set targets collaboratively and provide market development while they provide actual and real time bookings for tourists,”Malonza said.
She spoke during a Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) forum in Nairobi.
Malonza said the country must also create viable tourism circuits, adding KATA is best positioned to help develop new circuits and improve on the existing ones.
Kenya currently has seven key circuits, mainly on Safari and beach.
These include the Western Kenya circuit, Coastal Circuit, Southern circuit (Tsavo Amboseli regions), North Rift circuit (Laikipia-Marsabit-Turkana), South Rift Circuit (Mara-Lake Nakuru region), Eastern Circuit and Nairobi circuit.
"We need to leverage on KATA operators in targeting our key source markets , as South Africa does , let's use KATA directly to drive numbers,” Malonza said.
There are over 400 registered travel and tours agencies in the country with more than 240 being members of the association, accounting for up to 70 per cent of travel and bookings.
Leveraging on the agents, the government believes, will help the country achieve its post-Covid recovery targets set at 1.4 million this year, from from 870, 467 recorded last year.
Tourism Research Institute(TRI), the sectors statistician, projects this year’s earnings will also grow by 81 per cent to Sh265.4 billion.
Total arrivals for the year to August were 924,812, up from 483, 246 international tourists who visited the country in the same period last year.
This came with a jump in inbound tourism earnings which more than doubled to Sh167.1 billion, compared to the Sh83.2 billion recorded in a similar period last year.
The government expects the sector’s earnings to further grow 35 per cent to Sh359.1 billion next year, and then Sh396.1 billion the year after.
Kenya forecasts to have 1.9 million international tourists next year with the number expected to grow to 2.2 million in 2024.
The country’s best year currently remains 2019 when arrivals hit a high of 2.04 million visitors with earnings of Sh296.2 billion.
To drive numbers, the Kenya Kwanza administration is seen to embrace the Open Skies Policy that industry players have been calling on, mainly allowing more commercial flights to the coast region.
“We should continue to adopt a liberal aviation policy through bilateral and multilateral Open Skies Agreements (OSA), to give airlines the flexibility to respond to market opportunities, especially within the African Continental Free Trade Area,”the CS said.
KATO chairperson Shazmin Manji said the association is keen on how both the government and private sector will collaborate in supporting recovery, even as she cautioned that current global factors remain a challenge to the industry.
"As much as the outlook for air travel looks bright, at least for now, there are signs that the global economic outlook may get bleaker. That the industry’s recovery coincides with a looming recession, is a cause for concern,” Manji said.
The agents met to deliberate on the current trends and the future of the travel business.
According to the International Air Transport Association(IATA) Economics Aviation report released in September 2022, the travel and aviation industry has witnessed a continued recovery of passenger demand.
This was after the relaxation of the mobility restrictions in major business and leisure destinations worldwide.
This growth has been witnessed by the impressive sales performance of the Kenya travel agents.
Collectively, travel agents had generated over $380,000 (Sh46.5 million) in gross IATA sales as of October this year, which is 11 per cent below 2019 levels.
Travel Agents in Kenya contribute over 75 per cent of the passenger number bookings on national carrier-Kenya Airways and other multinational carriers operating in Kenya.