Strategies to revive Kenya’s tourism sector bore fruit after the country recorded a 20.3 per cent growth last year to post earnings of Ksh120 billion ($1.2 billion) despite the long electioneering period.
This is an improvement from the Ksh99.69 billion ($989 million) earned in 2016, according to Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala.
Latest statistics released by the ministry show international arrivals increased by 9.8 per cent to 1.4 million from the previous year’s 1.3 million.
The United States remains as Kenya’s leading market, growing by 17 per cent with 114,507 arrivals.
“We look forward to the direct Kenya Airways direct flights that start in October to boost arrivals.
"In March, the ministry will conduct a road show in US to promote the Nairobi-New York flights by the national carrier,” Mr Balala said.
The United Kingdom was second with an 11.1 per cent share of the arrivals at 107,078 tourists. Uganda was third with a share of 6.4 per cent at 61,542 arrivals.
Other top markets were India, China, Germany, Italy and South Africa.
Mr Balala said a total of 4 million bed nights were taken up by Kenyans last year compared to 3.5 million in 2016.
“Domestic market performance is measured in terms of bed nights taken up by Kenyans touring the country. This denotes a 15.9 per cent growth,” he said.
Travel warnings issued by western governments which form the bulk of the foreign tourists arriving in the country impacted negatively on the sector with numbers dropping to 12 per cent in the first 11 months of 2015 to 690,893.
This was a result of increased insecurity following spate of terrorist attacks.
After the August 8 elections, Mr Balala announced the government would find ways to counter the bad publicity occasioned by the post-election protests in some parts of the country.
The minister slammed the foreign and international media for what he said was portraying the country in negative light but assured visitors and holidaymakers that the country is safe.
“The number dropped after the first elections and tourists had started cancelling bookings before the second election in October.
This year, the ministry projects there will be a 16 per cent growth in the tourism sector.