Aviation growth in Africa boosts Kenya’s tourism sector


International tourist arrivals into Kenya for the year 2018 have exceeded the 2 million mark for the first time.

This is according to the recently released Economic Survey 2019 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KBNS) says that the improved performance was a result of conducive environment for tourism, withdrawal of travel advisories and high-profile international conferences and meetings held in 2018.

“The tourism sector registered an improved performance in 2018 compared to 2017. The number of international visitor arrivals increased by 14.0 per cent from 1.778 million in 2017 to 2.027 million in 2018.” The report stated in part.

The number of hotel bed-nights increased by 20.1 per cent from 7.174 million in 2017 to 8.617 million in 2018. The number of international conferences held expanded by 6.8 per cent to 204 in 2018 compared to 191 in 2017. This was boosted by high profile international conferences held in the country and visits by foreign dignitaries during the review period. Visitors to national parks and game reserves rose by 20.3 per cent to 2.868 million in 2018. Overall, the sector recorded an increase in tourism earnings from Sh119.9 billion ($1.181 billion) in 2017 to Sh157.4 billion ($1.550 billion) in 2018.

Some of the high-profile conferences held last year included the First ordinary session of the African Union Ministerial Sub-Committee on Tourism; the 79th International Skal World Congress; Sustainable Blue Economy Conference and; The African Hotel Investment Forum.

“Turning to 2019 economic outlook, we expect activities in the tourism sector to remain vibrant supported by strong expansion in tourists’ arrivals.” Said the Cabinet Secretary the National Treasury And Planning, Mr Henry Rotich.

However, the report notes, activities of the tourism sector are likely to remain vibrant supported by strong expansion in tourists’ arrivals. The construction industry is expected to follow the current trend given the ongoing infrastructural development by the government as well as the prevailing private sector confidence.

The improvement in tourism indicators was also attributable to concerted marketing efforts such as branding of tourism products, digital marketing and global campaigns during the review period.

The tourism sector registered improved performance in 2018 also attributed to growth in aviation sector. The performance was also boosted by visits by foreign dignitaries and revitalized marketing efforts.

International Conferences

The number of international conferences expanded by 6.8 per cent to 204 in 2018 while that of local conferences increased by 7.9 per cent to 4,147 in 2018.

The number of visitors to national parks and game reserves rose by 20.3 per cent to 2,868.9 thousand while that of visitors to museums, snake parks and historical sites grew by 32.3 per cent to 1,034.3 thousand in 2018.

The robust performance of tourism in 2018 indicate the sector is poised to achieve the set targets by 2020 as contained in the Third Medium Term Plan (MTP III) 2018-2022.

The targets include: The number of international arrivals rising to 2.1 million; tourism earnings at Sh 145.0 billion ($1.428 billion) and; hotel bed-night occupancy by Kenyans at 5.5 million.

Residents of Kenya occupied more than half of the total bed-nights in 2018, showing the significance of domestic tourism. The number of hotel bed Hotel Occupancy by Country of Residence Economic Survey 2019 190 nights capacity grew by 19.5 per cent from 22.987 million in 2017 to 26.500 million in 2018.

This may be attributed to new hotels and decentralization of some of the existing ones.

Overall, bed occupancy rate rose to 31.4 per cent in 2018 from 31.2 per cent in 2017 to 1.128 million in 2018. Notable decreases in hotel bed nights occupancy were recorded in the Coastal Hinterland and the Nyanza Basin in 2018.

Overall, according to the study, Kenya’s economy continues to be supported by a strong macroeconomic environment.

The Kenyan Shilling exchange rate against major trading currencies is expected to remain stable supported by diaspora remittances and a significant level of reserves. Further, Inflation is also expected to be stable during the year.

On the demand side, growth is likely to be driven by both the public consumption as well as private sector investment. Public consumption is projected to be underpinned by the ongoing development in infrastructure, while business confidence should remain strong enough to back up expansion in investment. The increased expenditure by the government mainly in support of the Big 4 agenda, is also expected to boost the performance of the economy.

Though the onset of the long rains have delayed, it is still early to predict on its impact on agricultural production. The Kenyan economy remains resilient and is expected to perform better in 2019.

Also Read: UNDP targets USD 4 million at conservation in Kenya


Yvonne Kawira is an award winning journalist with an interest in matters, regional trade, tourism, entrepreneurship and aviation. She has been practicing for six years and has a degree in mass communication from St Paul’s University.

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