Kenya expects Chinese visitor arrivals to triple over the next three years


(Posted 17th September 2013)

Kenyan tourism marketers expect arrivals from China, presently already standing at around 38.000 per annum (2012/13 FY figures) to rise significantly over the coming years. A recent trip by President Kenyatta to China, which strengthened bilateral relations and trade, also put added focus on Kenya as a tourism destination.

A few years ago hardly a few thousand Chinese arrived in Kenya before the trend gathered momentum, and increased air connections, via the Gulf, via Addis Ababa and of course as a result of Kenya Airways adding more destinations and flights to China, have been cited as a key factor for the sharp rise in Chinese tourists.

The newfound partnership with China and rise in visitor numbers contrasts sharply with the rocky relations Western countries have had with Kenya of late, where the US and UK in particular have meddled openly in Kenyan political affairs, especially before the March elections, where they almost openly threw their support behind the eventually badly beaten losing candidates. While attempts were made to gloss over these unacceptably diplomatic practices, the constant flood of anti travel advisories ultimately showed some effect as visitor numbers from the US and UK have since dropped lower in line with lower diplomatic temperatures.

Of course we want the US and UK visitors to return to their previous highs. They are important for our safari business and as far as the UK is concerned for our coast resorts too. It is unfortunate that their governments chose to attack Kenya’s elected leadership in the run up to the elections and threaten consequences should we Kenyans dare to elect leaders of our choice. But these two governments do not travel, it is the American and British people and I think we can get them to come back. Kenya is stable, our parks are world class and our beach resorts have been hosting them for many many years. But fact is also that China’s numbers are growing and of course we welcome them as we welcome visitors from any country around the world. KTB sources talk of about 100.000 Chinese visitors by 2016, that is in 3 years time, but I can see, if well marketed, that we get even more than that. There must be ground rules about the increased number of Chinese caught at the airport with illegal ivory but that is another campaign we can start and much progress is already there to see. If we can grow Chinese arrivals by three fold over the next three years we should also be able to initiate growth once again for our European and the American market. But let us wait and see how the new taxes will impact on all that because every market has only so much tolerance for price increases and ours have been bad with the 16 percent VAT now in effect’ contributed a regular source from Nairobi, when passing the information on KTB’s projections for new and emerging markets.

Other growth markets for Kenya were Russian and India, both members of the BRICS group and even the Middle East and there in particular the Gulf market too showed significant growth over the past financial year. However, tourism stakeholders have painted a picture full of challenges in recent days as they put out an avalanche of data and details to members of parliament now returning after a recess and to government in an effort to have the VAT Bill 2013 revisited. Towards that end, watch this space for future updates.

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