With the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its tourism industry, the Kenyan government has been urged to invest more on tourism infrastructure as the country is targeting an annual record of five million international tourists by 2025 as it plots a strong post-Covid recovery.
The strategy, according to the-star.co.ke will be driven by innovation, adoption of technology, product development and up skilling of personnel, according to tourism and wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala.
He said the sector’s recovery is likely to be experienced late next year.
The highest the country has received in history was 2, 048,833 in 2019, when earnings from the sector grew 3.9 per cent to Sh163.56 billion.
Top market sources include the US, UK, Uganda, Tanzania, India, China, Germany, France, Italy and South Africa.
This is however a drop in the ocean compared to Spain, France and Turkey which received 83 million, 76 million and 50 million visitors, respectively, during the year.
Balala said workers in the tourism and hospitality sector need re-skilling, re-invention and innovation to survive in the competitive industry.
He said Kenya continues to face increasing competition on its traditional key products of beach and safari, which it has marketed for decades.
Tanzania and southern Africa countries offer competition on international Safari, while a large number of African destinations offer beach products.
To survive, the CS said the government and private sector must re-think investment in the tourism sector, with focus on technology, security, infrastructure and aggressive marketing.
This, especially in the wake of Covid-19 that has changed global travel trends, with the pandemic expected to shape future travel decisions.
Balala said that while early tourism started out of curiosity, technology takes centre stage now, with the traveller being tech savvy, spoilt for choice, and sensitive to the environment.
“This is the time we need to throw away the box and come out and say, what can we do to take tourism to the next level,” Balala said.
He spoke in a virtual tourism and hospitality professionals’ roundtable during the launch of the master in hospitality business management programme by Strathmore University.
The CS emphasised on the importance of equipping the industry personnel with high-end skills, multi-tasking and re-inventing of destinations, as well as discovering of new products.
“That is why we need to re-think,” Balala said, calling on industry players to be passionate about tourism, a key element in attracting visitors.
Tourism remains a key foreign exchange earner contributing 10 per cent to the country’s GDP.
It is among the most hit during this Covid-19 pandemic where at least 3.1 million jobs have been affected in travel and tourism, including hotel employees, pubs and restaurants, tour operators and airlines.
Other sectors interlinked with the sector include agriculture, manufacturing, transport, building and construction, among others, all that have been affected in one way or the other on low business in tourism.
This includes fresh produce and food supplies, logistic business and development of new facilities.
Balala had in August warned tourism earnings for this year will be down by 80 per cent as global travel and local conferences remain restrained by the pandemic.
This means the country will miss out at least Sh130.9 billion based on 2019 total industry revenues.
Between March and June, the country lost 50 per cent of total annual tourism earnings which is about Sh81.8 billion.
International arrivals are projected to fall by 90 per cent, meaning the country is likely to miss out on about 1.8 million (1,843,949) international arrivals this year.
“We expected to earn almost Sh189 billion in 2020-21. That was our target,” Balala said.
The country which closed its skies for about five months, to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, received 26,018 between August and September after opening its skies for international travel, on August 1.
Tourism Research Institute(TRI) data shows 44.9 per cent of the international arrivals (11,696 visitors) came to Kenya for business and MICE (Meetings, incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions), signalling Kenya’s regional importance as a trade and business hub.