The Kenyan tourism industry defied a difficult period characterised by fears of insecurity and travel advisories in 2011, to post a 32 per cent rise in revenues.
The Country;s Tourism Minister Najib Balala said the Sh98 billion performance, which was only Sh2 billion shy of its Sh100 billion target, was boosted by visitors from new markets.
“Our strategy to diversify source markets is paying off. Arrivals from emerging markets grew by an average of 40 per cent,” said Mr Balala. In 2010, the sector earned Sh73.7 billion.
Air and sea arrivals grew by 15.4 per cent to 1.26 million, while cross border arrivals were estimated at 520,246.
This now makes tourism Kenya’s second largest foreign exchange earner after tea, which brought in Sh107 billion in 2011.
However, the industry did not escape unscathed by security concerns. According to the ministry, fears of piracy on the Indian Ocean and the spectre of an Al-Shabaab threat suppressed growth, while activity at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa was subdued.
“There has been no growth at the Mombasa Airport. The travel advisories are not helping us,” he said.
Traditional source markets in Western Europe continued to dominate the industry but their growth rates were sluggish in comparison to countries in Asia and Eastern Europe.
India toppled France to become Kenya’s fifth top source market after the UK, US, Italy and Germany. The number of tourists from France, Austria and the Netherlands fell by 3.6 per cent, 9.8 per cent and 10.5 per cent.
Tourist traffic from Hungary, Poland, the United Arab Emirates and the Czech Republic grew by over 40 per cent while Chinese tourists rew by 31.4 per cent.
The slow growth in tourist inflow from Western Europe has been attributed to the Eurozone debt crisis, which has eaten into the consumptive power of potential visitors.