The UK has regained its place as the number one visitor market to Kenya, the east African country’s tourism board has confirmed.
In the first quarter of 2017, growth of more than 11% in terms of UK visitors to the country saw Britain reclaim its long-standing top-slot from America. The US had become Kenya’s number one source of tourism in 2016.
Of around 1.3 million tourists who travel to Kenya every year, about 100,000 are British.
Overall, Kenya has so far seen a 16.7% growth in tourism in the year up to June 2017.
“The UK was the number one market for a long, long time,” said Dr Betty Addero Radier, chief executive of Kenya Tourism Board. “So we’re glad to see the UK back at the top.”
She told Travel Weekly that the opening of a new railway line between Mombasa and Nairobi will help boost tourism in the country as it will link the cities in less than five hours and stop off at three key tourism hubs along the way.
“It will be a nice ride through the national parks and offers an alternative to flying. You don’t see elephants and zebras from an airplane. This development will really drive domestic and international tourism.”
To help boost family holidays to the country, Kenya will also be waiving visa costs for under 16s and working with its national parks to offer preferential rates to the tourist board’s UK tour operator partners. A memorandum of understanding is set to be signed with the Kenya Wildlife Service next week.
Kenya is also pushing for more cruise into the country, and meetings are set for October with countries including Tanzania and South Africa with the view of organising a multi-destination itinerary that could include the Seychelles.
In another major infrastructure project, Kenya is hoping to open up luxury resorts in the south of the country to more operators with a new road, slated for completion later this year.
Radier said: “It’s a completely different experience in the south of the country and by the coast than you get in the national parks. “
Radier also confirmed that the Kenya Tourism Board would continue to run fam trips for agents next year after recent “successful” fams in recent months and further training will be rolled out for agents.
She added: “We had really good feedback from agents and understand they [fam trips] are important to the UK travel trade. It really helps them to understand trends we are seeing and keep them on top of all the new developments.”
Although, Tourism numbers in February went down marginally as the political climate heats up owing to the August General Election.
Latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicates that the total number of visitors arriving through the Jomo Kenyatta and Moi International Airports decreased to 72,730 in February 2017 from 79,690 in January 2017.
The number of passengers who landed at JKIA decreased from 179,601 in November 2016 to 179,577 in December 2016, while passengers who embarked increased from 180,274 persons to 180,327 persons in the same period.
The sector has been recording improvement in the past two years after it was hard hit by insecurity especially after the Westgate Mall attack in September 2013.
In 2016, the sector recorded 17.8 per cent increase in earnings for the first time since 2012 to post Sh99.7 billion from Sh84.6 billion.
The number of international visitor arrivals rose by 13.5 per cent to 1.3 million in 2016 owing to improved security and successful high profile conferences hosted in the country.
Additionally, the sector has benefited from aggressive marketing in the domestic and international markets.
The Tourism Ministry has continued to invest in the sector with the Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala hopeful that the sector will grow by 20 per cent.