Kenya’s Tourism Industry Receives Boost From Neighboring Nations

  • Hotels at Kenyan coast reporting more visitors from Africa
  • Visitor arrivals at airports declined by 13 percent last year

The number of tourists visiting Kenya from neighboring countries has increased over the past few months as the East African nation ramps up promotions around the region to make up for dwindling numbers from traditional source markets in Europe.

While tourists arriving at the nation’s two main airports dropped by 13 percent to 748,771 last year, the decline was less steep than the previous year’s reduction of 28 percent, according to the country’s statistics agency. Visitors have shied away from going on safari in the country or lounging on its white sandy beaches after a series of deadly attacks by al-Shabaab Islamists in the past few years.

The government targets annual tourist arrivals of 10 million in about a decade’s time. Visitor numbers are expected to rise now that France, the U.S. and Britain have lifted travel bans to the country, which will allow tour operators to market the destination once again.

East African holidaymakers staying at Amani Tiwi Beach Resort on the Indian Ocean Coast more than doubled in the past three months, General Manager Aditya Mata said in Kwale County, at the Kenyan coast. “Forty five to 50 percent of our visitors have been from Kenya and the rest of the East African countries,” he said.

Bed occupancy improved to 85 percent, compared with 50 percent a year earlier, he said.

Diani Reef Beach Hotel in the same county received vacationers from Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia in the past six months, according to Chief Executive Officer Titus Kangangi. “Even Nigeria, which is a first for me,” he said. “I would put the number of regional visitors at around 10-15 percent, excluding Kenyans. It’s very good, it’s looking up.”

Carriers such as Ethiopian Airlines and RwandAir now have flights to the coastal resort city of Mombasa.

While cash remittances and agricultural exports have relegated tourism to third place in the hierarchy of leading foreign exchange sources, the industry is still key for the economy. As many as one million Kenyans depend on it at the coast.

Regional visitors account for a third of arrivals with Uganda the second highest source market after South Africa, acting Kenya Tourism Board Chief Executive Jacinta Nzioka Mbithi said by e-mail.

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