Kenya wants to double its tourism earnings in the next four years, but it faces considerable infrastructure challenges that could hinder potential growth for the East African nation.
Kenya’s tourism industry, one of the East African nation’s top sources of hard currency, surged 83 percent in 2022 to $2.13 billion as Covid curbs eased, the government said on Wednesday.
Visitors rebounded to 72 percent of their pre-pandemic level in 2019, tourism minister Peninah Malonza told reporters, outpacing the rest of the continent, which stands at 65 percent of the pre-pandemic level.
Kenya offers beach holidays along its Indian Ocean coastline and wildlife safaris inland. The U.S. was the main source of visitors during the year, Malonza said, followed by Uganda, Britain and Tanzania.
China, which had been a growing source market before the pandemic struck, started to ease travel restrictions this year.
Kenyan authorities will focus their marketing efforts on emerging markets like Rwanda, Nigeria and Ethiopia, Malonza said.
Tourism earnings are projected to rise to $3.37 billion this year, said David Gitonga, CEO of the state Tourism Research Institute, before increasing to $4.28 billion in 2027.
But the sector is also facing serious challenges, said Kareke Mbiuki, chairman of parliament’s tourism and wildlife committee, citing cuts for infrastructure required by the sector, part of a broader austerity drive by the government.
The country is also facing a severe drought, Malonza said.
Hilton closed its 50-year-old hotel in downtown Nairobi at the start of this year, in a further sign of the problems facing the sector that contributes a tenth of Kenya’s annual economic output.
Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Nick Macfie. Copyright (2023) Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.
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Photo credit: Maasai warriors in Kenya. Randy Fath, Unsplash / Randy Fath, Unsplash