Conference visits lag as number of tourists rises 15pc

Tourists at the Serena Beach Hotel in Mombasa. PHOTO | FILE
Tourists at the Serena Beach Hotel in Mombasa. PHOTO | FILE 

Holiday-makers accounted for 73 per cent of 800,000 tourists who visited Kenya in the first 11 months of 2016, indicating that efforts to shore up other segments were yet to bear fruit.

A newly released report by the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) shows that conferencing and business visits segments trailed at a distant 14 per cent.

However, the 2016 arrivals represent a 15.6 per cent improvement over the 691,000 visitors over similar period but fall halfway to the 1.6 million registered during the peak years.

Holiday-makers are mainly attracted to Kenya by wildlife and the Indian Ocean beaches. With high investment in infrastructure projects, the country has been struggling to promote other segments.

“Holiday-making remains a major source of tourists,” KTF said in a statement. “The private sector led by KTF has agreed with the government that sound policy interventions are necessary for the sector’s revival. There is [a] need to analyse the direct and indirect impacts of tourism on the economy to form a sound basis for policy reform,” it said on its website.

A spate of terrorist attacks on Kenya led to many source countries issuing travel alerts to their citizens, hurting arrivals when tourists changed direction to other destinations.

Majority of the tourists — 714,000 visitors — entered the country via the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). Others arrived through Mombasa’s Moi International Airport (83,000) while 1,880 others came in by cruise ships.

The data shows seven per cent of tourists were Kenyans visiting family members, three per cent passed through JKIA en route to other countries while one per cent were here for undergraduate, master’s and post-doctoral studies.

The agency announced its intension to launch the second phase of Tourism Economic Research to help fill gaps on the identified challenges from policy to marketing.

It said the drive had been approved for funding by Business Advocacy Fund. The KTF wants industry stakeholders to focus on mitigating pollution and environmental degradation.
It said: “All establishments must sustainably manage natural resources by leading campaigns to add vegetation cover while taking serious measures to manage wastes as well as promote staff training on environmental protection.”
Cruise ship tourism is slowly shaping up as the next big bet for Kenya as incidents of terrorist attacks reduce.