Tourism in Kenya is gradually recovering
By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | Global Chinese Daily | Updated: 2022-06-28 09:18
Kenya’s mainstay sector, tourism, is gradually recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic crisis as the number of visitors to various tourist destinations, especially local travellers, continues to increase.
According to the Kenya Tourism Federation, an umbrella body representing eight tourism sector associations, the easing of COVID-19 restrictions has contributed significantly to attracting more domestic, regional and international tourists.
Miriam Mbithe is among many Kenyans who have had the opportunity to visit various tourist sites after the government eased remaining restrictions in March, including the requirement to wear masks in public places.
Mbithe traveled to the coastal city of Mombasa in April with a group of 50 children and 10 adults.
“There were lots of local tourists at the beaches and other sites, but the number of international visitors was very low,” she said.
Chris Musau, president of the Kenya Hoteliers and Caterers Association, confirmed that business is picking up in the hospitality sector.
He said the sector is focusing on building a resilient local market to help the tourism industry survive challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tour operators are seeing an average 50% improvement in business, with positive projections for the rest of the year and 2023, said Fred Kaigua, CEO of the Kenyan Association of Tour Operators.
“There’s a lot of positive vibes in the market, and bookings and inquiries are also looking very positive,” he said.
“There is a projection for a full recovery by 2024, but it could probably happen even sooner, by next year, if we continue at the same pace,” Kaigua added.
Susan Ongalo, CEO of the Kenya Tourism Federation, said progress in Kenya’s tourism sector has been positive since the start of this year and most market players remain optimistic that it will fully recover.
“The situation keeps getting better with every passing day,” she said.
Kenya’s tourism receipts stood at $1.25 billion last year, a sign that the sector is gradually recovering, Ongalo said. Total tourism revenue in 2020 was $781 million, which is a huge drop from $1.4 billion in 2019, she added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on Kenya’s tourism industry.
“About 1.2 million full-time equivalent employees … have been laid off, while about $1.3 billion in labor income has been lost,” she said, citing the 2021 annual report on performance of the country’s tourism sector.
The Kenyan government has formed the National Tourism Risk and Crisis Management Committee to address the crisis and address related issues in the industry, Ongalo said.
She also said the government was encouraging vaccination against COVID-19 for domestic and foreign tourists.
The government is also committed to improving and promoting the sector, as evidenced by the recently launched tourism strategy realignment, described as “a new vision for Kenya’s tourism sector”, Ongalo said.
Jackson Kalla, the country’s chief administrative secretary for labor and social care, said that with the right marketing and publicity strategy, the sector should be able to recover very quickly and even double its income.
He said the government will work with all partners in the tourism sector and the labor industry for measures to ensure the recovery continues.
Ongalo from the Kenya Tourism Federation said some businesses in the sector are still struggling.
The uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic are hampering full recovery, with visitors lacking the confidence to travel for fear of contracting the virus, she said.
A recent rebound in COVID-19 cases has also forced the Kenyan government to reinstate some measures, including the mandatory wearing of masks in places such as offices and supermarkets.
Stephen Ogenga, chief executive of the National Industry Training Authority, said Kenya’s tourism sector faces employment challenges that need to be addressed.
“The positions available in the sector are not attractive enough, in terms of salaries, career progression and benefits, for interns to start a career in tourism,” he said. This has led to high staff turnover and companies are struggling to replace staff members, especially the most skilled workers, he said.