By Lillian Gaitho
In a surprising turn of events, Uganda took the lead as Kenya’s top source market in Africa, while Germany and Italy tail the numbers globally.
According to data from the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), The Pearl almost doubled her score of 29,038 visitors in 2015 to 51,023 for the year ended (2016). The report attributes this growth, to among other factors, the provision of Interstate Passes (EA Visa) which has enabled cross-border tourism for expatriates working in Uganda, as well as travelers wishing to explore both countries in a single regional tour. Uganda takes a leading position on other notable key source markets such as South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda, and a notably slow-to-growth Tanzania. An earlier report by KTB indicates an upward trajectory for total (Africa) arrivals, rising steadily from 23pc in 2014, to 26pc and 28pc in 2015/2016 respectively.
Despite the earlier decline due to the famous visa spurt between Kenya and South Africa, the latter showed notable growth, rising from 30,500 in 2015 to reach 35,926 in 2016.
Estelle Verdier, the Managing Director for Jumia Travel, East & Southern Africa imputes this positive progress to factors such as increased alternative source marketing by tourist bodies, economic growth in most parts of the continent and increased regional trade, and the growth of eCommerce and global digital inclusion. Commented the MD, “the online presence of both hotels and tour operators has gone a long way in boosting awareness and serving travelers with channels and options unlike in the earlier years when you could only rely on friends for reviews, advice and direction”
Internationally, the USA overcame the UK as Kenya’s top source market for tourists by registering 97,883 arrivals in 2016 compared to UK’s 96,404. A comparison between the 2015 and 2016 numbers reveals a worrying decline of 2000 visitors from the UK, while noting a much needed 13,000 gain from the USA. KTB attributes the (USA) growth to aggressive marketing of the country as a safari destination while blaming the UK for not restoring all Kenya-bound charter flights even after prevailing travel bans had been lifted.
India made a surprising entry to become third largest tourist market for Kenya with 64,116 arrivals last year, an increase of over 15,000 visitors compared to the 49,756 in 2015. Neighboring Uganda took up the fourth position ahead of China; viewed as a growing target market for African destinations. The remarkable rise by China against traditional favorites such as Germany and Italy, who came in at position six and seven respectively is attributed to an increased number of direct and indirect flights servicing the two countries.
“The growth is encouraging, says Verdier while noting the vital need for tour promoters to provide seamless services to tourists. When a visitor finds in-depth information, booking and payment methods all under the same roof or on a single screen, then it goes without saying they will consciously or otherwise be more persuaded to take up the trip.”
China closed the year at 47,860 (visitors) compared to 29,790 for 2015, while Germany reached 43.502, up from 38,236, to beat Italy’s 35,953.
At a local level, Mombasa took the lead on the growth curve with a 22.2 percent increase from 2015 to hit 92,872 foreign visits. However, actual numbers are still in favor of the capital, Nairobi, having received 782,013 arrivals, up from 671.789 in 2015, which translates to a rise of 16.2 percent. According to a recent report by Jumia Travel, the MICE (Meetings, Incentives and Conference) industry has been quite instrumental in growing the capital city’s arrivals; with most business travelers taking a day or two to two nearby attractions, while visitors still hold the coast region as a rest and relaxation beach destination.