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Economy

Tourism sector defies poll fears to grow 10.7pc

Kenya Tourism Board chief executive Betty Radier. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Kenya Tourism Board chief executive Betty Radier. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Tourist arrivals grew 10.7 per cent in the first five months of the year, cementing a rebound the State says has continued into the electioneering period.

The number of international visitors rose to 358,985 in the year to May up from 324,276 in a similar period last year, according to data from Kenya Tourism Board (KTB).

The growth is welcome news to hoteliers who had been forced to cut jobs, slash pay and close shop following the crippling effects of several travel alerts issued in 2014 after a spate of terrorist attacks on holiday getaway towns.

“Given the feedback we have received from numerous stakeholders, including hoteliers at the Coast as well as the Maasai Mara, most hotels and resorts are currently experiencing full booking,” said Betty Radier, the KTB chief executive officer.

“The wildebeest migration, also known as the 8th wonder of the world, started in June and is expected to continue until October. This attraction continues to bring many tourists globally to the Maasai Mara.”

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Kenya in 2013 witnessed dips in tourist arrivals ahead of the elections on fears that the violence that ripped through the country after its 2007 polls would erupt again.

Ms Radier said the arrival of global personalities Chinese business Mogul Jack Ma, and Veronica Ferraro, Italian fashion blogger close to the election has helped calm visitor nerves.

Tourism was once the highest foreign exchange earner, before a decline that started in 2011 before last year’s rebound.

Official data shows that tourism earned the country Sh84.6 billion in 2015, down from Sh87.1 billion in 2014 and Sh97.9 billion in 2011.

Earnings increased to Sh99.7 billion last year on arrivals of 1.39 million tourists, down from 1.71 million in 2011.

Past terrorism attacks had caused a big drop in foreign visitor arrivals after Western nations issued travel advisories.

This partly saw the weakening of the shilling to the US dollar last year as the drop in arrivals threatened to cut the inflows of hard currency.

The US and Britain have since lifted their travel advisories on coastal holiday-making towns of Mombasa and Malindi, raising hopes of a faster sector revival.

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