Kenya’s tourism sector has been on a steady path to recovery after a sharp decline during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourists, who couldn’t witness the Great Wildebeest Migration since 2020, are arriving from all parts of the globe. The government also eased restrictions on travel and introduced precautionary measures for a safer travel experience.
James Gatheru, the owner of AJKenyaSafaris.com Ltd, which also owns Masaimarasafari.in and KenyaLuxurySafari.co.uk, has travelled to several tourist destinations after the government relaxed restrictions in March. He says, “The number of tourists is gradually increasing, and we are getting more queries for beach holidays apart from the usual safari bookings. We have launched special tour packages, starting from $1200 per person, for the next year’s Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration Safaris. Winning back the trust of the tourist and providing more value to the travel experience are the key challenges for the recovery of the tourism sector. We follow all precautionary measures and help tourists with flight bookings, visa applications, and self-reporting through the Jitenge app.”
Kenya reopened its borders to international tourists in August 2020. The government also formed the National Tourism Risk and Crisis Management Committee to facilitate the growth and recovery of tourism in Kenya post covid. It plans to digitize the sector and continue with the contactless visa application system. International travellers must carry a negative PCR test result and complete an online Travelers Health Surveillance form prior to travel.
According to Tourism and Wildlife Minister Najib Balala, Kenya’s earnings from tourism more than doubled to 167.1 billion KSh ($1 billion) in January- August 2022 from 83 billion KSh in the same period a year ago. It is concurrent with a recent report on Tourism Sector Performance by TRI, which shows 924,812 international arrivals (in the first 8 months of 2022), as compared to 483,246 travellers in the same period in 2021.
The tourism sector is vital to the recovery of Kenya’s overall economy. Along with horticulture, tea, and coffee, it is the top source of foreign exchange for the East-African country. Revenue from the tourism sector is about to touch pre-covid highs after dropping 98% during 2020-21. “We can expect a full recovery by 2024, but it can come sooner if connectivity improves. Based on current trends in safari bookings for the Wildebeest Migration 2023, we can expect to operate at full capacity in the coming year,” said James.
Apart from intercontinental travellers, Kenya also attracts domestic and regional tourists. Data from international arrivals reveals that Uganda (9 per cent) and Tanzania (8 per cent) are among the top sources of tourists for Kenya. Other major countries outside Africa include the USA (15%), the UK (9%), and India (6%).
Kenya Airlines is also expanding its international routes, with plans to increase direct flights to more than 25 cities in the US and Canada. The national carrier will also inaugurate direct flights from Mombasa to Dubai on December 15, 2022. Most travellers arrive at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, followed by the Moi International Airport.