Visitors into Kenya increased by 10.7 per cent in the first five months of the year backed by increased meetings , incentives, conference and exhibitions.
Data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that the arrivals between January and May were 358,985 compared to 324,276 in the same period in 2016.
“What will drive growth for the tourism industry is MICE,”Tourism Cabinet secretary Najib Balala said yesterday at a tourism stakeholders forum. “We are going to implement our MICE strategy through the Kenya Tourism Board to make sure that we increase conferences and meetings.
Balala said that the growth signaled continued recovery of the tourism industry which had faced a four-year slump over insecurity.
He said that the 2013 and 2014 Alshabaab attacks coupled with the 2007/08 post election violence had negatively impacted the country’s tourism industry with most visitors opting to travel to other African regions.
“We have recovered almost 18 per cent since 2015 and we believe our projection is going to be higher this year. We expect a 20 per cent rise in arrivals by the end of 2017,” Balala said.
During the period under review, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport recorded 10.97 per cent more visitors totaling 320,588, compared to 288,905 in 2016. Mombasa’s Moi International Airport had 38,397 visitors from 35,388, an 8.5 per cent growth.
Balala said that while occupancy in the cities was flat with visitors adopting a wait-and-see attitude, regions such as Diani and Maasai Mara had registered full occupancy to the night before the elections with tourists drawn into the country for the wildebeest migration.
“We hope that this season will continue and we hope that it will extend to March or April next year but it will not happen if there is no calm in the country,” Balala said.
KTB chairman Jimmy Kariuki also attributed the growth to aggressive marketing, which has helped restore confidence among key international markets and the new emerging markets.
“The most robust growth in terms of our tourism source markets has come from emerging markets in Africa and Asia as well as the domestic market,” Kariuki said.
Balala cautioned against remarks or actions by political leaders that would jeopardize the gains made in the tourism industry as it would scare away visitors. “Our tourism sector is very sensitive to any perceived or real insecurity and instability,” Balala said. “People in the nature reserves and the safari circuit have said they do not want protests because it is going to jeopardize the tourism sector.”