AUGUST POST ELECTION JITTERS HIT KENYA’S TOURIST ARRIVAL NUMBERS
(Posted 23rd November 2017)
The latest data available from Kenya confirm that the trend of 2017 points to a firm tourism recovery, albeit with the rider that growth in arrival numbers in August reversed hot on the heels of the overturned election results and subsequent fear by foreign tour operators, spurred by violent opposition protests in parts of the country.
Overall are numbers up by 9.2 percent compared to 2016, reaching 632.936 visitors entering the country through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport Nairobi and Moi International Airport Mombasa. This compares with 579.428 visitors between January and end August last year.
Most visitors came into Nairobi – many tourists then continuing to the Kenya coast by air or the new SGR railway – with Mombasa’s international airport welcoming ‘only‘ 61.146 arrivals.
However, August saw an instant reaction to the political situation in Kenya when numbers dropped from 96.958 a year ago to 89.782 this year, a sharp reminder how peace in the country is directly related to the success in reviving the tourism industry.
Tourism stakeholders, pointing to the all time arrival record in 2011 with 1.785.382 are however saying that more needs to be done to attract all those ‘lost‘ numbers back to the country with in particular the Kenya coast reporting less than satisfactory bed and room occupancy numbers.
‘We are all very happy that the Supreme Court this time has come up with the right decision, a decision carried by all of the judges, and that we as a country can put this election anxiety behind us. From what I gather will September also show a softening in arrivals, again caused by the problems caused as a result of the initial Supreme Court ruling and the misconduct by the opposition leaders. Their actions, and this is not rocket science, are responsible for the August downturn and I only hope that we can now get on as a country and move beyond individual egos and agendas to see the tourism industry thrive again. Remember, this industry can fast track job creation, foreign exchange earnings and bring investments, but only when our country is seen as peaceful‘ said a regular contributor from the Kenya coast whose hotel occupancies are in his words ‘just above breaking even point‘.
Additional concern has also been expressed by key stakeholders that tourism marketing budgets may be cut, some saying that this is what led to the sharp downturn in 2012 and 2013, when instead of investing in hard selling Kenya the then government reduced spending and as a result accelerated the loss of business. Said another regular contributor: ‘It is possible that the recent cutting of ties with KTB’s German representative sales and marketing agency could have something to do with available fund and if that is really so we need to stand up and demand sufficient budget allocations to continue marketing the country. I’d call that penny wise and pound foolish should the rumours found out to be true‘. It was only reported two days ago in the Kenyan media that the relationship between KTB and their German rep office had been ended after some 15 years, raising a series of questions posed to this correspondent for which answers are still sought.
Watch this space for updates when the September arrival numbers have been released.