Earnings from international tourist arrivals to Kenya are set to hit Sh396.1 billion in the next two years, the ministry projects, coming with a full recovery of the industry.
This is after two years of low business, albeit an improvement this year, as the Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on the industry, on reduced global and local travel activities.
At least 1.2 million full-time jobs were lost in 2020, data by the Tourism and Wildlife Ministry (Tourism Research Institute) indicates, a year that both international and domestic tourism faced a near collapse.
This came with a Sh152.4 billion loss in labour income as employers in the industry cut operations on low visitor numbers.
Earnings fell by 70 per cent to Sh88.5 billion from Sh296.2 billion in 2019, the year that the country received the highest number of international tourists.
Over the pandemic period, domestic tourism has offered a life-line to the sector, keeping some businesses afloat.
Tourism and Wildlife CS Najib Balala has however exuded confidence of a full recovery meaning starting next year, after a strong performance this year where numbers have rebounded 91 per cent in eight months (January-August).
The Tourism Sector Performance report by TRI, released on Friday, shows international visitor arrivals grew to 924,812, as compared to 483,246 recorded in the same period in 2021.
The upsurge in the arrival numbers is attributed to the global and domestic vaccination drives that paved way for eruption of travel.
This year’s performance came with a Sh167 billion in receipts, double the Sh83 billion that was earned in a similar period last year.
“The numbers are still not where we want them to be, but we are optimistic that we shall soon go back to our all-time high international visitor arrivals recorded in 2019, and even surpass it,” Balala said, “The year 2023 to 2024 will be for recovery.”
TRI, the sectors statistician, projects this year’s earnings will grow by 81 per cent to Sh265.4 billion, as international arrivals increase to 1.4 million, from 870, 467 recorded last year.
This is expected to further grow 35 per cent to Sh359.1 billion next year, and then the projected Sh396.1 billion the year after.
This is enough to run the 47 counties for a whole financial year going by the Sh370 billion that the National Treasury proposed as equitable share in the financial year 2022/23.
In 2024, Kenya is expected to receive the highest number ever on international tourists, projected at 2,200,448, up from 1,987, 369 next year.
“The projections were informed by global economic factors and Covid recovery patterns. The effects of the Russia invasion of Ukraine on some key markets and on global tourism supply channels was also taken on board,” TRI acting Chief Executive Officer David Gitonga told the Star.
Its based on economically tested tourism prediction models that TRI has acquired/contracted, he added.
“The finalisation of the Tourism Satellite Account in 2021 also now makes computation of earnings and other variables of tourism’s impact more accurate,” Gitonga said.
TRI, which factored in last month’s general elections notes the numbers could even go higher.
“We considered the impact of the elections based on past election cycles. Since this one was more peaceful than past ones, we are likely to surpass these projections,” Gitonga said.
The best year so far remains 2019 when a total of 2,048, 834 international tourists visited the country.
The current and projected growth is also pegged on strong trust for the Magical Kenya destination in key markets, which can be credited to renewed marketing efforts by the ministry.
Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) has been instrumental in marketing the country globally.
This year, innovative products and marketing efforts were also increased to ensure that the destination’s offerings remained competitive.
Kenya continued to host international events that include the Magical Kenya Open and The Magical Kenya Ladies open which came back after a two-year break.
The WRC – Safari Rally which commenced in 2021 after a 19-year hiatus also returned in 2022.
“These events have played a major role in rebuilding the confidence of visitors on destination Kenya,” KTB, led by chief executive Betty Radier, notes.
Out of the 924,812 international arrivals into the country in the year to August, a total of 313,466 visitors were in the country for holiday.
The second biggest purpose was visiting family and friends whose total was 274, 722.
Business and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibition) equally remained strong with 258, 889 arrivals.
Those who came into the country for education purpose were 16, 196, religion (8,459), medical (7,833) while 1,362 came into the country for sporting activities with Kenya hosting the third edition of the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi, in May.
43,883 visitors transited through Kenya during the period under review with JKIA remaining a key regional aviation hub.
Meanwhile, Kenya continues to diversify its marketing strategies to tap into new markets and grow existing ones, where the US remains the leading source.
On Friday, Balala launched multi-lingual destination videos targeting both key and emerging markets.
The videos target the global traveler and put the destination top of mind among potential travelers and investors from various source markets across the world.
“As part of our strategy to continue engaging travelers from across the world, we are ensuring that we reach every market and the best way is to make sure we can communicate to them in their own languages,” Balala said.
So far, videos have been translated for the Chinese market, France,Spain, Italy, Germany, and Arabic- speaking countries.
The video which highlights Kenya’s diversity in tourism offerings and experiences will be amplified on Magical Kenya’s social media assets for wider reach and awareness of destination.
They highlight cultures, cuisine, vibrant cities, adventure, and other experiences that punctate the destination’s diversity.