Kenya’s tourism earnings drop due to rising insecurity

 Tourists arrive at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa. Photo/FILE
Tourists arrive at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa. Photo/FILE 

Kenya’s tourism earnings fell 2.1 per cent last year following a drop in the arrivals of international visitors on security concerns and increased competition from neighbouring destinations.

The sector, whose earnings have fallen for three straight years, earned Kenya Sh93.9 billion last year down from Sh96 billion the previous year.

A sector’s performance report shows that tourism has trailed tea as the highest foreign exchange earner for three years in a row, although it remains ahead of horticulture.

Last year, the number of International visitors stood at 1.09 million down from 1.23 million the previous year, representing 11.3 per cent drop.

Commerce and Tourism secretary Phyllis Kandie attributed the decline in international tourist arrivals on the jitters linked to March 4 elections and the Westgate Mall attack by Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab last September.

“Several incidents of insecurity reported mostly in Nairobi and Mombasa that are terrorism related have adversely affected the image of Kenya as a tourist destination,” she said on Friday during the unveiling of a tourism performance report for 2013.

“Consequently, potential tourists choose alternative destinations offering similar products.”

The sector was once the top highest foreign exchange earner for the country but has since been outpaced by tea.

Currently, tea is Kenya’s top forex-earner having raked in Sh114 billion in 2013.

Diaspora remittances also grew faster than tourism to stand at Sh104.1 billion last year.

Ms Kandie said that plans are afoot to aggressively start a global campaign to redeem the image of Kenya as a secure tourist destination.

She also pegged hopes on the use of single tourist visa within Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda to boost the sector.

This comes even as several nations from Europe, the largest source market (43 per cent) for Kenya’s tourism, and the US (13 per cent market) have issued travel advisories in the wake of the attacks.

The number of tourists from the UK slumped 19.5 per cent, the highest fall, to 149,699 visitors, followed by the US at 115,636 and Italy at 79,993 visitors.