Tourism
Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) Chief Executive Officer Dr Betty Radier urging industry stakeholders to adopt sustainable and resilient business models that adapt to the shocks and demands in the sector.

Players in Kenya’s tourism industry are betting big on the domestic market to shore up revenues and accelerate post-pandemic recovery during the June-September low season.

Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) says the tourism sector is on a rebound the businesses could post pre-pandemic earnings by 2024.

“We are approaching about 50 percent recovery but the prognosis is what is looking good,” explained KATO Chief Executive Fred Kaigua.

“Towards the end of 2022 going forward to 2023, there are a lot of positive vibes from the market and the bookings and inquiries are looking up,” he said, adding: “Going by the projections we have, we could have full recovery by 2024 but it could come as soon as next year if we continue at this pace.”

The positive numbers come less than two months to the August 2022 general election that some fear could cause a dip in the number of foreign travelers as the politically charged atmosphere dampens both leisure and conference tourism activity.

Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) Chief Executive Officer Dr Betty Radier urged operators to adopt sustainable and resilient business models that adapt to the shocks and demands in the sector.

“The new traveler is discerning and very demanding, especially because they can see everything online,” she said. “They choose their next travel destinations based on the offerings available, which then requires us to have a competitive edge against other destinations,” explained Dr Radier.

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According to the country’s latest economic survey, the recovery in Kenya’s tourism industry in recent months from the disruption of Covid-19 was largely attributed to patronage by a rising number of domestic tourists.

Hotel bed-nights occupancy rose by 45 percent to 5.5 million last year with domestic tourists boosting the industry’s earnings lost from the slowdown of footfall from the international markets.

“Domestic tourism expanded notably with hotel bed-nights occupancy of Kenyan residents growing by 49 per cent to 3.8 million, accounting for 69 percent of total bed nights occupancy in 2021,” KNBS report noted.

International conferences held in the country increased from 28 in 2020 to 292 last year while local conferences went up to 8,117 in 2021 from 1,176 two years ago.

“The number of visitors to national parks and game reserves increased by 50 percent from one million in 2020 to 1.5 million in 2021,” the statistics showed. “Similarly, the number of visitors to the museums, snake parks and historical sites more than doubled to 403,700 in 2021.”

“Tour operators need to move from just being coordinators to now also selling opportunities and experiences to attract various interests of travelers. Investment in the human resource will be important for us to achieve this goal,” said Dr Radier.

Dr Radier was speaking during a stakeholder consultative forum organized by KATO to discuss the status of tourism recovery, key activities going forward as well as insurable risks in the sector and the available solutions.

KATO chief executive Fred Kaigua says that partnerships between the private sector and government have been key in stimulating the recovery of tourism businesses in the country even as some work still remains to be done.

“The collaborations we have had with the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) and other government agencies are already bearing fruit and the sector is looking up,” he said.

“We still have others who are yet to get to this level and the goal is to have all players move forward together,” he said.

The Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) Chairman Fred Odek lauded the collaboration between the government and the private sector at a time when the pandemic had throttled the business.

Mr Odek assured that the private sector would continue playing its role in bringing in visitors while marketing and selling compelling packages.

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