Local visitors and conferences set to drive tourism growth this year

Visitors enjoy coconut drinks at Lamu Island during the annual Lamu Cultural Festival. Opening up of new markets is seen boosting growth this year. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT
Visitors enjoy coconut drinks at Lamu Island during the annual Lamu Cultural Festival. Opening up of new markets is seen boosting growth this year. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT 

Domestic and conference tourism are expected to drive the sector riding on new hotels and a raft of major international conferences slated for this year, a new report by Britam Asset Managers shows.

The report says that there has been a steady increase in residential developments in Kenya in recent years that cater to tourists, such as serviced residences and new hotels, backed by Nairobi’s rise as a conference hotspot.

“In 2017, the sector will be driven by local tourism as well as conference tourism,” said Britam Asset Managers in their 2017 outlook report.
Despite 2017 being an election year, a number of international conferences are slated to take place in the country.

These include the East Africa Islamic Economy Summit, the 2nd East Africa Education Conference, the Power and Energy Summit Kenya, the Oil and Gas Kenya conference, Solar Africa summit, AutoExpo, Mine Expo and the Africa Internet Summit.

Maritime industry players will also congregate in Mombasa for the African Ports Expansion Conference scheduled to take place on March 20.

The Africa Mobile and Digital Banking Summit is also slated for this month (March 22), bringing on board key players in the banking sector from around the continent.

These conferences will bring professionals, policy makers, traders and equipment makers to the country.

The January Central Bank of Kenya (CBK ) Monetary Policy Committee survey on tourism sector showed that forward bookings in major tourist hotels in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Eldoret for the first four months of the year were in line with seasonal trends, with a mean of between 37 and 50 per cent.

In past election years, tourism has tended to go down due to fears of unrest, the worst of which came in 2007-20087 when the post-election violence brought the sector to its knees.

The sector has also been affected negatively by terror attacks on Kenyan soil, especially on the key coastal region.

Britam, however, said that recent efforts to open up new markets are likely to pay off this year.

“The country is also moving to open up new tourism frontiers by enacting agreements such as the Jamaican Open Skies agreements that will enable travellers from the Asian and African continents to fly directly to the southern parts of the world without an in-transit visa, and vice versa,” said Britam.

At least eight hotels are slated to open this year in Kenya, including the Pullman Nairobi in Westlands, Lazizi Premiere by Sarovar near Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Royal City by Swiss International in Kisumu and City Lodge at the Two Rivers development.

Others are Park-Inn by Radisson in Westlands and Best Western Premier Collection, The Alba, Wyndham Amboseli Golf Resort and Spa at the Amboseli and Hilton Garden Inn also near the JKIA.

Notable events hosted in Nairobi in 2016 include the week-long United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific Parliamentary Assemblies meeting, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICADVI) and the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF).