Tourism earnings miss the Sh100bn full-year target

Tourism minister Najib Balala. Photo/FILE
Tourism minister Najib Balala. Photo/FILE 

Tourism earnings fell far below the Sh100 billion target for 2010 but rose 15 per cent above 2009 to hit Sh73.7 billion helped increased tourist arrivals.

The number of foreign tourists visiting Kenya grew from 952,481 to 1.095 million as the industry stepped up its role as a regional conferencing hub amid serious economic challenges in key European markets.

Tourism minister Najib Balala said the industry had adjusted its targets to reflect some of the challenges in the international market.

“We have to invest more in the new markets. We have done well especially in India, China and Africa,” he said, adding that more resources would be invested in the growth markets this year.

Kenya Tourist Board (KTB), which markets Kenya as a tourist destination, has diversified its pitch to emerging markets such as China, India, the Middle East, Russia and some African countries.

Mr Balala said these markets are expected to be key drivers of arrivals this year.

Together, the markets recorded improved performance compared to the UK, Germany and Switzerland that have not fully recovered from the effects of an economic recession.

The UK remains Kenya’s leading source of visitors that gave the country 174,051 tourists last year followed by the US with 107,842 and Italy at 87,600.

India was the best performing source market with 47,611 visitors compared to 36,602 in 2009.

KTB is this year expected to increase its investment in the emerging markets to further grow earnings.

Industry players will aggressively marketing to these makes aiming to take advantage of reduced traffic in North Africa, especially Egypt, where political turmoil has cut the number of visitors by wide margins.

In 2010 tourism failed to defend its position as the highest foreign exchange earner, emerging third behind tea (Sh97 billion) and horticulture (Sh78 billion).

Tourism was the leading forex earner for the county until it was hit hard by 2008 post election violence and the global financial crisis.

The sector’s earnings dropped from Sh65.2 billion in 2007 to Sh52.7 in 2008.

More recently, players in the sector have invested heavily in marketing the country using new incentives to attract visitors.

One of the incentives was the reduction of visa fees for foreign tourists by half to $25.

The fee is expected to return to $50 from July 1.