Pandemic deprives Kenya’s tourism sector about $800 million

A southern white rhino and her calf are seen inside the Nairobi National Park with the Nairobi skyline in the background, in Kenya, June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Kenya’s tourism sector has taken a huge hit amid the COVID-19 pandemic, losing some 85 billion shillings (about $800 million), a senior government official said on Monday.

The Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Najib Balala, said a huge chunk of the tourism industry is out of business, causing major losses.

“We have lost about 50 percent of the 1.6 billion dollars tourism revenues,” Balala said during the launch of the National Tourism Crisis Steering Committee Report that will guide the recovery of the tourism industry.

The study recommends various innovative ways to re-open and sustain the industry in the post-COVID-19 era.

Tourism is Kenya’s leading foreign exchange earner.

Since March, the sector has experienced near-zero foreign activity as international flights were suspended in a bid to curb further spread of the disease.

In his address on Monday, Balala noted that between July and December, Kenya will only recover less than 30 percent of tourism sector revenues.

He said that the ministry will only focus on domestic tourism for the remainder of 2020 as international travel restrictions are expected to be in place in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Kenya has reported 6,190 COVID-19 infections and 144 deaths according to the Ministry of Health.

The country has seen a recent spike in new infections as health experts say Africa has not yet hit its peak.

African countries are however starting to reopen after their economies took huge hits following weeks of lockdowns.

As he rooted for a safe reopening, Balala observed that tourism is a key sector of Kenya’s economy and this is evident from the sustained growth the sector has experienced since 2015, culminating into about 2.05 million tourist arrivals in 2019.