Terror attacks scared away tourists from visiting Kenya: survey
Kenya’s amplified tourism marketing conducted last year was not enough to win over international tourists who were still scared of possible terror attacks in the country.
The Economic Survey 2016 published on Tuesday indicates that despite efforts to show Kenya as a better destination, tourism numbers from abroad were lower than the previous years.
The report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) says Kenya received 1.18 million tourists in 2015, which is 12.6 per cent lower than the figures in 2014.
This translated into lower revenues as Kenya collected Sh84.6 billion in 2015 compared to Sh87.1 billion the previous year.
According to the Survey, the number of visitors spending nights in hotels went down by 6.4 per cent from 6.28 million in 2014 to 5.87 million.
Kenya hosted more local conferences, going up to 3, 199 in 2015 from 3, 077 a year earlier.
But this rise in local confidence was clipped by a drop in international meetings, which dropped by nearly ten per cent, in a year that Kenya held both the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation, and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit attended by US President Barrack Obama.
“The sector’s suppressed performance was mainly due to security concerns, particularly in the coastal region, and the negative travel advisories from some European source markets,” the report presented by KNBS Director-General Zachary Mwangi says.
The aftermath of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa also slowed international visitor arrivals in 2015, the report added.
The lower returns came even as Kenya invested Sh10.7 billion in the current budget (twice the money allocated in the previous year) to boost marketing activities and showcase its parks, beaches and museums as the best and safe.
A look at the numbers however indicates that international tourism numbers have been falling since 2011 when the country received 1.8 million tourists, earning Sh97.9 billion in return.
Insecurity, mainly from terrorist incidents, disease outbreaks and general economic bad times have contributed to the drop.
In October 2011, Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) ventured in Somalia to pursue Somali militants —Al-Shabaab — but the terror merchants have continually responded by attacking civilians in the country.
Between 2011 and 2014, there were about 160 terror attacks in the country. In turn, Western countries such as the United Kingdom, the US and France, where many of these tourists come from, issued travel advisories for their nationals from visiting specific areas.
These three countries have since lowered their advisory level, and reopened their consulates at the Coast.
Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said the government’s efforts to revive tourism has already shown a positive impact.
“The government has invested heavily in security to ensure that the country is a secure tourist destination. The indications are that the investment is bearing fruit,” Mr Kiunjuri told an audience during the launch of the Survey at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), Nairobi.
“We will continue investing in marketing strategies to support the tourism sector, including diversification of source markets,” he added.
Provisional figures published in the report show that the traditional source markets of UK, US, France, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, Scandinavia and other European markets were the main contributors to tourism number in 2015.
Europe and North America contributed 650, 3000 visitors many of who came for holiday although others were on business trips or were on transit.
This figure is nearly twice the number of visitors from around Africa (321,200) and three times those from Asian markets (181,900).
In East Africa, Kenya got 49,800 visitors from Uganda and 29,300 from Tanzania. It means that the theory of alternative source markets hasn’t worked yet.