Ideas & Debate

Why domestic tourism is a big deal for Kenya


Passengers disembark from Jambojet at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after Kenya Airways launched it's flight to Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret at a cost of Ksh 2, 850 on April 1, 2014. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NMG

This year has seen what many have called the biggest blow to the aviation and hospitality industry globally. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be a threat, with cases rising day by day the world over.

Businesses are struggling to stay afloat, while millions of people have lost their jobs.

Statistics released in September 2020 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicate that unemployment rate has doubled to 10.4 percent, with an estimated 1.7 million Kenyans having lost their jobs in the three months to June when the government imposed a partial lockdown. The number of employed individuals is shrinking each day.

The tourism sector is one of the key economic drivers in Kenya, generating 8.8 percent of the country’s GDP, worth $7.9 billion in 2018.


While countries often tend to focus on international tourism due to the revenue earned through exports and forex, domestic tourism remains the leading form of tourism. This represents an important tool for regional economic growth and development.

While travel restrictions continue to threaten the international travel sector during the festive period, there is an opportunity for Kenyans to embrace the new normal and explore what the country has to offer by supporting local leisure tourism.

As we attempt to highlight the importance of domestic travel, we must first start by explaining what it is. The World Tourism Organisation defines domestic tourism to involve activities of persons travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment but within their country of residence for not more than one year for leisure, business and other purposes.

We can now give the reasons why domestic travel should be a priority to a country as well as its citizens.

First, domestic tourism is a major driving factor of Kenya’s tourism and travel sector, contributing more than half of its GDP. This attracts both local and international investors to invest in both transport and infrastructure.

Second, domestic travel contributes to job creation. A recent article highlighted how hotels in the Coast region have recalled some of their staff to work as they anticipate a high number of guests during the festive season.

This should not only be limited to the Coast, but to other regions such as Kisumu, Eldoret and Nairobi.

Third, it helps reduce burn out. Everyone deserves a break, and because we all cannot afford to travel out of the country, domestic travel presents a great opportunity for change of scenery without ‘burning a hole’ in your pocket.

Despite the growing number of coronavirus cases, we are slowly regaining control as a country.

For us in the aviation sector, we are working closely with the government and relevant authorities to ensure that we create a safe environment for our customers and staff.

Since September, Jambojet has been running a campaign dubbed ‘Now Travel Ready’ aimed at showcasing the new normal of travel —from the moment you leave your home, to when you get to the airport, your in-flight experience, arrival at your destination, the hotels you can stay at and the measures in place, as well as the activities you can take part in.

The campaign also includes a partnership with hotels across the regions we fly to, and who are working in line with the safety protocols, to encourage travel in the new normal. From the white sandy beaches of Kilifi County to the shores of Lake Victoria, you can now traverse the hidden gem that is Kenya.

It may not be sustainable to travel during the festive season only, and so we encourage Kenyans to travel any time of the year. In fact, some of the best deals can be found outside the traditional holiday seasons.

Local tourists are at an advantage to fly affordably to various destinations, and get good hotel deals as well.

We recognise that this year has presented its own challenges with the Covid-19 pandemic, but as we look ahead into recovery, we would like to encourage Kenyans to go out and appreciate what the country has to offer.

The travel and tourism industry players should continue working tirelessly with the Ministry of Health to ensure that all safety protocols are observed and implemented accordingly.

Remember, even as you do all the exploration, take all the precautions; wear your mask correctly, wash your hands and maintain physical distance.

As someone once said, ‘if you do not know about it, then you cannot talk about it’.