Kenya’s tourist arrivals drop by 72 pct in 10 months amid COVID-19

Tourists travel at Nairobi National Park in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, Oct. 18, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Yan)
Tourists travel at Nairobi National Park in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, on Oct. 18, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Yan)

Tourist arrivals through all points of entry to Kenya dropped by 72 percent to 470,971 in the first ten months to October compared to 1.72 million arrivals in the same period in 2019, a government official said on Wednesday.

Najib Balala, Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet secretary said a near-total collapse of international arrivals occurred between April to July due to the travel restrictions, and then a slight improvement took place after the resumption of international flights in August.

Balala said the east African nation experienced a good performance for January and February followed by a drastic decline in March due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic globally.

“We are not out of the woods yet, but we are optimistic the situation will gradually improve once the vaccines being developed become readily available to the masses,” he said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

“The whole world will be safe only when everybody is vaccinated. So we should encourage the mass distribution of the vaccines once they are ready without discrimination,” he added.

Kenya is keen to rebuild trust and confidence among both foreign and domestic travelers and hence increase and sustain demand for holiday and investment in Kenya as a tourist destination.

Kenya’s coastal towns are the backbone of the country’s thriving tourism industry, which has been hit by the fear of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several hotels were forced to close down with others reducing their staff after governments introduced COVID-19 containment measures that included travel restrictions.

Balala said the tourism sector experienced a loss of revenue of 74 percent in direct international tourism receipts for 2020 translating to 37 billion shillings (336 million U.S. dollars) loss against projected revenue of 1.34 billion dollars for the review period.

He said the loss of revenue is mainly due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.

Balala said Kenya has recorded a gradual growth in arrivals since the resumption of international flights on Aug.1, registering 14,049 arrivals in August, 26,018 in September, and 39,894 in October respectively.

This, he said, is an indication of a steady growth in travel confidence and trust for the Magical Kenya destination.

The top five international arrivals by country are Uganda (60,399), U.S. (53,444), Tanzania (43,649), Britain (42,341), and India (25,251).

Out of the recorded international arrivals up to October, 35.32 percent are visiting friends and families, 35.11 percent are business travelers and only 19.92 percent are holiday travelers.

This, Balala said, is a sharp decline compared to 63.15 percent of holiday travelers during the same period in 2019.

He said the decline in holiday travel numbers is an indication that only essential travel is happening and the holiday market will take longer to recover.