Why Kenya may find it hard to pull another $1billion tourism miracle in 2017

A number of western countries such as Britain finally lifted off travel advisories to Kenya in the spirit of “Kenya Hakuna Matata”

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According to a UN agency, 1.3 million tourists spent $1 billion (Sh100 billion) in Kenya last year alone, a 17 per cent increase from the previous $850 million.

The UN World Tourism Organisation says total international arrivals by air and by sea increased by 16.7 per cent to stand at 877,602 tourists compared to 752,073 in 2015.

A number of reasons enabled this to happened, first improved security and reduced terrorist activities motivated tourists to visit Kenya, mostly for leisure (73 per cent), business and conferences at 14 per cent compared to 16 per cent in 2015, with friends and family visits accounting for eight per cent with transit and study taking up three and one per cent respectively.

Secondly, the government's tourist incentive package offered to domestic tourists such as waiving visa fee for children below 16 years finally paid off.

Last year 3.6 million beds were taken up by Kenyans compared to 3.1 million in 2015 according to KTB statistics.

Thirdly a number of western countries such as Britain finally lifted off travel advisories to Kenya in the spirit of “Kenya Hakuna Matata” which prompted their citizens to visit Kenya without worry.

However in 2017, the first red light to keep tourists away from Kenya is the general elections to be held on August. Because of Kenya’s history of post-election violence fueled by leaders stoking ethnic tension tourists have avoided visiting Kenya during such delicate times.

It is not foreign tourists alone however, even domestic tourists normally cut down their travels expeditions during elections peroid.

The Kenyan economy has traditionally always taken a dip during elections period, this is because farmers and businesses always tend to hold back and see first how the elections will go in a bid to avoid losses. this year however it is more than just elections, a severe drought ravaging parts of the country has worsened an already dire situation.

The World Bank this month also downgraded Kenya’s economy growth to 5.5 per cent from an earlier anticipated growth of 6 per cent.

Going back to the UN’s report, the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, handled the highest number of tourists visiting Kenya at 782,013 compared to 672,789 in 2015.

Cruise tourism which has steadily been growing over the years with Kenya and SA even planning to co-own a cruise ship by 2020 also significantly grew.

Kenya received 2,717 cruise passengers in 2016 with prospects for 2017 looking up especially after the government and donors invested $3 million in building of a modern cruise ship docking complex at Mombasa port expected to be ready by June.

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