Tourist arrivals in Kenya last year dipped by 12 per cent due to insecurity and poor services.
The total number of arrivals last year stood at 1.09 million, down from 1.23 million recorded in 2012.
The top five source markets for Kenya are the United Kingdom with 149,699 arrivals, the US, which had 115,636, Italy with 79,993, while India and Germany stood at 64,887 and 60,450 respectively in 2013.
As a result, tourism revenue in 2013 declined by 2.13 per cent to Sh93.97 billion compared to Sh96.02 billion realised in 2012.
Speaking after releasing the results at Teleposta towers in Nairobi on Friday, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie attributed the sharp drop in arrivals to insecurity.
“Security is the single most important factor that tourists consider,” said Ms Kandie, adding that this has been demonstrated by the sharp decline in arrivals and earnings whenever there are terror-related incidences in Kenya.
As a result, a number of tourist source markets have at times issued advisories against non-essential travel to Kenya.
The 16 per cent value-added tax in the country is also to blame because it is making Kenya compete unfavourably with other countries in the region whose levies are much lower.
Inadequate government funding to the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) is also slowing its plans to market the country. At the moment, the board has Sh745 million allocated to it. The board also gets two per cent of the catering levy collected from hotels.
Further, Ms Kandie cited a drop in product service and quality and pointed an accusing finger at poaching.
“Kenya has also been losing its competitive advantage in the safari product due to declining wildlife population and haphazard development of accommodation facilities in major conservation areas such as Maasai Mara and other game reserves,” she noted.
The government is, however, hopeful that the sector will make a turnaround given its ambitious plans to scout for new markets in Africa and Asia.
The Treasury has allocated Sh200 million to tourism recovery programmes. KTB has revamped marketing campaigns in key source markets.
The recently constituted tourism recovery committee is tasked with coming up with solutions to help revive the sector and steer it to its former glory.
“We are moving to Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, Morocco, Eastern Europe and Ghana in a bid to expand our market,” said Mr Ndegwa.
According to Ms Kandie, product diversification will also play a big role in reviving the business.
Conference tourism is one of the projects the government has undertaken to diversify the country’s products with plans to revamp the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi to start catering for 15,000 delegates.
Meetings, incentives, conferencing, and exhibitions tourism will ensure that the sector remains resilient across all seasons.
The government has also set up a unit within the ministry mandated to regulate the sector by setting standards. Dubbed Tourism Regulatory Authority, the arm will ensure that all products adhere to the specific standards to ensure that the sector has a competitive edge.
( Courtesy Daily Nation, Government of Kenya & Agencies …….. Source …….. New Africa Business News)