Signs of a major tourism recovery in Kenya have started showing at the Coast following a rise in bookings and arrivals.
The industry, which had performed well in 2007, was pulled down last year by the violence that followed the contested 2007 general election.
Players in the industry attribute the increase in holidaymaker arrivals to aggressive marketing by the Kenya Tourist Board in the country’s customary source markets of United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France and others.
Tourist officials said charter flights from Europe would soar to 30 per week towards the end of the year, compared with about 20 per week in recent months.
Recent figures released by Tourism Minister Najib Balala showed that between January and September this year, tourism earnings rose by 10 per cent to $488.5 million (Ksh36.64 billion), compared with $426.2 million (Ksh33.24 billion) realised in the same period last year.
Consolidated arrivals between January and September this year stood at 687,664, compared with 496,056 in the same period in 2008.
Last year the industry earned the exchequer Sh52.7 billion, compared with Sh65.2 billion in 2007.
Tourist arrivals last year stood at 725,000, compared with 1.8 million in 2007.
According to Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association chairman John Cleave the industry has in recent months recovered by 30 per cent compared with last year.
Mr Cleave said the marketing campaigns by KTB abroad played a major part in reversing the industry’s downturn.
“We are glad that the marketing efforts by KTB in tourist markets overseas are now paying dividends. Tourist arrival numbers are on the increase as we head towards the winter season,” the MCTA boss said.
“Charter flights from Europe are expected to shoot up to 30 per week by the end of the year, compared with over 20 currently. By the look of things, we are gearing towards fully recovery between next year and 2011,” he added.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast branch chairman Titus Kangangi said most of the hotels in the region have registered impressive tourist bookings.
Mr Kangangi added that foreign tourist arrivals have soared owing to an increase in charter flights from various European countries.
He noted that hotels in the region would be packed with guests in December, both foreign tourists and local people, as a result of the holidays.
The KAHC official said recently some airlines from Europe and Ethiopia launched direct flights to Mombasa and thus boosted tourist numbers.
“The launch of direct flights from Brussels to Mombasa has given us tourists from Belgium. We have also weekly charter flights from European cities of Paris, Amsterdam and Gatwick,” Mr Kangangi added.
He, however, said more marketing needs to be done in Italy so as to win over the many Italian tourists who head to Zanzibar, whereas before the post-election violence they used to holiday in Malindi and Watamu resort towns.
Serena Beach Hotel general manager Charles Muya said his establishment currently had 50 per cent foreign guests, adding that in December the number of visitors is expected to shoot up to more than 80 per cent.
He said the hotel has a 90 per cent bed occupancy but that by mid-month the establishment will be bursting at the seams until early next year.
The setting in of the winter season, coupled with the Christmas and New Year festivities, he said, would play a part in boosting the number of foreign tourists.
“We are happy that bookings from our tourist source markets are on an upward trend compared with last year’s performance, which was occasioned by the post-election violence,” the hotelier said.
“From mid-month, we shall have a big number of foreign holidaymakers and in December the industry will have recovered from last year’s downturn. The Kenya Tourist Board has been doing a good marketing campaign abroad,” he added.
Baobab Beach Resort and Spa director Bimal Thaker said currently the hotel has more than 70 per cent foreign guests as bookings from European source markets are on the increase.
Mr Thaker said the hotel has a 75 per cent bed occupancy, adding that in early December it expects to record a 100 per cent occupancy, with the majority being foreign holidaymakers.
“In our hotel, we have a large number of foreign guests and as we gear towards December, we should have recovered from the drought of foreign tourists,” he added.
Temple Point general manager Isaac Rodrot said hotels in Malindi and Watamu are expected to record a higher number of foreign tourists in mid-December.
Mr Rodrot said that in the coming months foreign bookings are set to rise by more than 50 per cent, compared with between 10 and 30 per cent currently.
“Foreign tourist numbers are expected to pick up as from mid-December as Italian tourists will be coming on holiday during the winter, as well as the Christmas and New Year period,” the hotelier said.
Moi International Airport manager Yatich Kangugo said last September the airport recorded 1,810 aircraft movements compared with 1,651 movements in the same period last year.
At least 82,045 passengers arrived at the airport in September, compared with 67,393 passengers in the same period last year.
Mr Kangugo said the airport expects the aircraft movements to rise to 2,350 in December, compared with 1981 in the same period last year, owing to the expected boom in tourism in the region.
“We expect 150,000 passengers by the end of December, compared with 115,000 passengers in the same period last year,” he added.
“The number of aircraft movements last year nosedived due to the post-election violence. But now things are better as most of the foreign airlines have resumed their flights,” Mr Kangugo explained.
Thomson Airways Resorts airport operations manager Sharon Davies said Tui Airlines would be doing four charter flights from Europe to Mombasa per week.
“Every week, Tui Airlines will be flying more than 1,000 tourists to Mombasa. The tourists will originate from the UK, Belgium, France and Holland,” she added.