Kenya tourism data for 2012/13 cause concern and spur calls for action


(Posted 12th September 2013)

When tourism cabinet secretary Phyllis Kandie announced the details of the 2012/13 annual tourism report, for the period of July 2012 to June 2013 (Kenya’s financial year), the data gave cause for more questions than it provided answers for, as far as senior stakeholders in the tourism industry are concerned.

It is very important to have the correct figures at hand, but they look discouraging. What we as a sector need to come up with is a strategy of marketing ourselves across the world. Existing markets need reassurance. New and emerging markets need special measures like marketing and sales missions, open days in key cities for the travel trade and generally a good will campaign. We need to sit down as stakeholders and map out the way forward. To do that we need to be certain of the budget the country has and will give to KTB. If KTB’s resources are not boosted, much of what we could do or should do will remain in the talk sphere and not move to the action column. This is the time to join hands and everybody put their ideas and resources together like we did in 2008 with the Kenya Airways led Mega Fam Trip’ contributed a regular source to the topic.

Kenya suffered a reduction in arrivals from 1.3 to 1.2 million, a decline of 9 percent, while revenues over the same period reduced from 104 billion Kenya Shillings to 96 billion Kenya Shillings, a decline of 7 percent.

The highest single reduction of arrivals by nations came from the UK with 18 percent over the previous year, attributed to the hostile anti travel advisories and negative publicity over hyped up fears for visitor safety. ‘Those allegations and insinuations did us a lot of damage but let us be clear, that apart from those two incidents perpetrated by Al Shabab, which resulted in Kenya taking military action alongside the UN mission in Somalia, no visitors have come to harm. Security for visitors remains high and strict and the suggestions by UK officials, here in Kenya from the High Commission and from London were patently unjustified’ added another source when discussing the likely reasons over the steep decline.

In contrast have regional travelers taken to Kenya’s beaches, with Uganda for instance up by 44 percent in the statistics, obviously aware that the true situation on the ground was far from the panic talk Western media peddled among their populations. Visitor numbers from India went up by 10 percent, aided no doubt by Kenya Airways’ launch of flights to Dehli while visitor numbers from the UAE rose by a staggering 54 percent as a result of more flights, closer links with travel agents and tour whole sellers and the positive feedback given by the media vis a vis visits by journalists to Kenya. Mrs. Kandie though will have to do a bit better than just saying ‘We are deliberately investing more in emerging markets, the Middle East and domestic tourism’ by putting budget figures to such activities and finally coming clean over just how much money KTB will now get in the 2013/14 financial year. ‘The industry is ready to come on board for joint activities but we need to agree on the strategy, the places and the timing and most important, let us have the truth about how much KTB can spend this year so that the expense is shared accordingly. And by the way, no word on the impact of the new taxes which may yet show a very detrimental side effect and also impact on visitor numbers because of the tariff increases’ quipped another regular. True that is of course, so time to sit down and put the combined heads of private and public sector together to drive Kenya’s tourism industry forward. Watch this space.

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