Kenya eyes India in tourism recovery, growth plan

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Kenya is set to sign business deals in the Indian market as Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) leads its members to this year’s Outbound Travel Mart (OTM) tourism fair in the country.

The expo to be held at the Jio World Convention Centre, in Mumbai from February 2-4, will bring together exhibitors from over 60 countries, as destinations globally smart out of the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

Over 14 Kenyan travel trade partners will take part in the three–day exhibition with the country seeking to reposition itself in the Indian market, whose growth has picked up to about 90 per cent by the close of last year, compared to 2021.

KTB acting CEO John Chirchir says OTM is giving Kenya an opportunity for re-entry into the Indian market that was severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“India is one of the markets whose travel was negatively impacted with the Covid-19. We are now making a physical presence in the market after about two years of absence, and we hope to reap big from the fair,” says Chirchir.

The OTM tourism fair is the largest gathering of travel trade buyers and professionals in India with over 1,300 exhibitors, from the over 60 countries attending.

Kenya hopes its participation in the event will allow it to tap into the growing Indian tourism market and promote its offerings to Indian travellers.

In 2022, the arrivals into Kenya from the Indian source market recorded a growth of 93.2 per cent from 42,159 in 2021, to 81,458 in 2022.

This is a recovery of 67 per cent compared to the 2019 performance of 120,893.

Chirchir says the growth is a positive indication that the tourism business in India is on the path to recovery, even as KTB rolls out key promotional and marketing campaigns in the market.

Ahead of the expo, KTB will also participate in roadshows in the three Indian cities of Ahmedabad, Bangalore and New Delhi between January 30 and February 6.

“These are part of our many initiatives to bring the market back to its performance recorded before the Covid-19 pandemic. Attributes such as ease of access and connectivity, all-weather season as well as tourism offering that cut across all the segments have continued to pull Indian travellers to Kenya,” said the CEO.

Last year, KTB hosted a familiarization trip in Nairobi for India’s leading travel companies, launched joint promotional campaigns with marketing companies such as FCM Travel Solutions India and Yatra, to build traveller confidence.

Tourism Expos

Kenya Tourism Federation Chairman Fred Odek said international exhibitions remain a key platform of wooing international travellers, which he said were key in contributing to the revenue receipt for the sector.

He said domestic tourism has sustained the tourism business through the Covid-19 pandemic period but added that international travellers have contributed a lion share in terms of revenues and lauded KTB for stepping up its in-marketing activities.

“It is important we sustain our in-bound market to keep up with the competing destinations that are beefing up their numbers to 2019. We are optimistic that we are going to sign new contracts during the OTM event,” said the Chairman.

Regional Sales and Marketing Director for Serena Hotels East Africa Rosemary Mugambi expressed her optimism that the OTM is expected to impact on the rise of hotel bookings within a short period.

She said there is a lot of interest from Indian travellers to the country, and the OTM expo comes at the right time when Kenya was re-igniting the market that comes in handy during the low tourism season.

According to Mugambi, international exhibitions continue enhancing top of mind awareness of Kenya among travellers and investors alike and hailed KTB for identifying key markets for exhibition and promotional activities.

The strategic move in India adds to Kenya’s strategies as it targets to increase tourism earnings from international tourist arrivals, projected to hit Sh396.1 billion in the next two years.

This will come with full recovery of the industry after a poor run over the pandemic period.

At the height of the pandemic, between 2020 and 2021, more than 1.2 million full-time jobs were lost, official state data shows.

About Sh152.4 billion was lost 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 totaling 2,048, 834.

The industry has heavily depended on the domestic market during the pandemic.

Growth 

The country projects 2022 earnings to have grown by 81 per cent to Sh265.4 billion, as international arrivals increased to about 1.4 million, from 870, 467 the previous year.

This is expected to further grow by 35 per cent to Sh359.1 billion this year, and Sh396.1 billion next year.

Kenya expects to receive the highest number ever on international tourists in 2024, on full recovery of the industry, with the United States remaining the leading international market source.

Uganda is second top source followed by the UK, Tanzania, India, Germany, Rwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia and France as the top ten sources.

Meanwhile, KTB hopes its strategies will help drive numbers.

Among them are promotional videos translated into Chinese, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Arabic, targeting the UAE countries.

According to the agency, the videos will be used on all social media platforms including YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

The board is also running a six-month campaign for the domestic market, which has remained a key pillar for the industry over the pandemic period, which had disrupted international travel.

Kenya has been key to also diversify its product offering as it seeks to remain competitive, amid rising competition from neighbouring Tanzania.

The two East African countries are renowned for their beach and Safari products which have continued to win world accolades.

They are also facing competition on Safari from countries in the Southern part of Africa.

Martin Mwita is a business reporter based in Kenya. He covers equities, capital markets, trade and the East African Cooperation markets.

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