Home » Africa: A Kenyan Calls for New Tourism Approach as Western Cape’s 7 Million Population Competes with Kenya’s 53 Million in Tourism Dollars

Africa: A Kenyan Calls for New Tourism Approach as Western Cape’s 7 Million Population Competes with Kenya’s 53 Million in Tourism Dollars

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World Tourism Day recently brought back memories of the mid-1980s when the then Tourism Minister, Maina Wanjigi, unveiled an ambitious goal for Kenya: to welcome a million tourists annually by the end of that decade.

This nostalgic announcement reflects a time when Kenya was setting its sights high in the tourism sector, aiming to become a top destination for travelers from around the world.

According to the-star.co.ke, It didn’t happen, and in fact we only hit the magic million tourists mark during the last 15 years or so. The government said earlier this year that in 2022, Kenya international tourist arrivals were 1,483,752 which represented a 70.4 per cent increase as compared to 2021 arrivals of 870,465.

According to available information issued by the state in February this year: “Nearly 1.5 million visitors arrived in Kenya for different purposes, with visitors on holiday leading at 36.6 per cent followed by those visiting friends and family at 27.8 per cent of the total.

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“Visitors on business and Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions tourism (MICE) took third position with 27.2 per cent of the total visitation.

“Flight landings in Kenya’s airports increased by 38 per cent to 62,000 in 2022 which was only 13% shy of the pre-Covid-19 performance.

“JKIA registered a flight landings growth of 44 per cent, Mombasa International Airport registered growth of 33 per cent, and Kisumu International Airport by 31 per cent.”

READ: Africa: Kenya Sets Sights on Attracting Asian Golfers to Boost Tourism

These figures all sound quite decent until one compares them to the figures coming out of just one province of South Africa, the Western Cape.

The Western Cape is one of the domestic travel destinations in South Africa preferred by foreign tourists. With several local attractions and venues, the city of Cape Town received 2.6 million international visitors in 2018.

This year, the provincial government is forecasting that in the upcoming peak tourism season, they expect an impressive 215 international flights into Cape Town every week.

The Western Cape government said that this meant that for the first time ever, they would be expecting to exceed one million inbound seats.

The latest statistics on tourism to the Western Cape show that in 2022, international tourists visiting the Western Cape generated an impressive R24.3 billion or Sh188.5 billion.

This means that for every 100 international tourists to the Western Cape, R2.1 million in direct tourist spend was generated, contributing R500,000 (Sh3,9 million) to the provincial Gross Domestic Product and supporting the movement of R1.4 million worth of air cargo.

I’m no economist and will happily admit my limitations as far as numbers and mathematics are concerned. But I think even I can see that it is quite impressive that a province with a population of about seven million people is giving a country of 53 million a serious run for the tourism dollar.

One of the things the Western Cape has concentrated on for the last eight years or so has been increasing the number of flights into the province, especially from the rest of the African continent, while constantly exploring opportunities to establish new routes to unserved markets across the continent.

According to official figures: “Since 2015, Cape Town and the Western Cape have been connected directly to 10 new African destinations, including Addis Ababa, Harare, Victoria Falls, Maputo, Livingstone, Kigali, Nairobi and, since June of this year, to Manzini and Lusaka.”

This brings the total cross-border African destinations served out of Cape Town to 15, with 11 operating airlines, in addition to the province’s other global destinations.

They seem to understand that tourists don’t just come from Europe, North America and Asia, but that Africa, too, can generate a decent number of tourists.

There is no doubt that, barring another worldwide pandemic, the tourism and hospitality sector has immense potential to contribute to the economy.

I would love to know what plans there are to increase the number of tourists visiting Kenya so that the economy can receive a much-deserved boost.

We desperately need some new thinking on how we can further unlock and enable the enormous potential of the tourism and hospitality sector in Kenya to grow the economy, because more tourism means more jobs.

Perhaps such a boost might reduce the need for even more taxes being levied on already struggling Kenyans.

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