Kenya mourns a record 2007 tourism performance


NAIROBI, Kenya (eTN) – Tourism broke several records in Kenya last year, adding to the despair on the current crisis that has seen the sector grid to a near halt.

Although some “never say die” tourists are still prowling the empty national parks as others lounge on the beautiful but lonely, sandy beaches of the Kenyan coast, many hotels have opted to close down.

Releasing impressive tourism performance statistics for the year to December 2007, Kenya Tourist Board managing director Dr. Achieng Ongong’a cautioned: “Following the post – election crisis, and looking at the load factors of scheduled airlines and the charter stoppages, the first quarter of 2008 is likely to record an average of 9,000 arrivals per month, thus generating a total of 27,000 visitors, which translates into a record heavy decline of 91.4 percent.”

This is a sad story compared to last year, when tourists burst the 2 million mark in Kenya as opposed to about 1.7 million visitors in 2006. International arrivals by air and sea increased by 10 percent to just over a million from 954,000 recorded in 2006.

Said Dr. Ongong’a, “It is important to note that this was the first time international arrivals by air and sea, which is the promotable segment, hit the target of a million tourists.”

Similarly, cross-border arrivals improved in the year to 955,000 arrivals from 885,980 in 2006. This was an increase of 7.8 percent. The total international arrivals (consolidated) increased by 9 percent, hitting the target of two million arrivals projected four years ago.

Total bed nights occupancy increased to 15.5 million last year from 13.5 million bed nights in 2006. Out of the total bed nights, domestic share was reported at 27 percent while international share was reported at 73 percent. Domestic consumption in bed occupancy declined by 15 percent, while international increased
by 9 percent.

“The poor performance of domestic occupancy is due to poor and uninformed booking habits. In the same year, occupancy rate grew by 0.5 percent at 92.3 percent over 2006,” noted Dr Ongong’a.

Addressing an international press conference on tourism performance, the MD said: “It is worth noting is that the average length of stay was steady at 10 nights between2006-2007 although it was a decline over 2004-2005 period. The decline is attributed to increased economic costs in major source markets and the rising demand of “Visit more than One Destination Concept.”

Tourism earnings for 2007 are estimated at Sh65.4 billion (US$1 billion) an increase of 15.4 percent over Sh56.2 billion recorded in 2006. Disaggregating the revenues by source, international source share was estimated at 73.1 percent while domestic share stood at 26.9 percent.

Markets performance (Arrivals)
The best performing markets in 2007 were the UK, USA, and the Scandinavia. The UK market arrivals increased by 19 percent from 171, 409 tourist arrivals in 2006 to 202,924 in 2007. Similarly, USA arrivals increased by 17 per cent from 86,528 tourist arrivals in 2006 to 101,846 arrivals in 2007, while the Scandinavian arrivals increased by 16 per cent from 28,682 tourist arrivals in 2006 to 33,266 arrivals in 2007.

In the same year, the most improved markets were China with an increase of 26.2 per cent from 14,778 in 2006 to 18,766 in 2007. Canada tourist arrivals increased by (25.1 percent) from 20,796 arrivals to 26,126 tourist arrivals in 2007, while Australia increased by (24 percent) from 13,388 tourist arrivals to 16,588 arrivals in 2007.

Average performing markets were India and France. India’s tourist arrivals increased by (4.6 percent) from 33,078 arrivals in 2006 to 34,612 arrivals in 2007. French arrivals in the same period under review increased by (4.5 percent) from 50,281 arrivals to 52,566 in 2007.

Italy became the third largest source market overtaking Germany with a minimal growth of (3 percent) from total of 81,904 tourist arrivals in 2006 to 84,260 arrivals in 2007. Germany experienced a stagnant growth at (zero percent) due to the declining trend at the coast. The stunted growth has been attributed to limited product and services expansion that delivers more experience.

In Asia, Japan has continued to experience a declining performance despite being one of the leading top spenders in world tourism. The decline is attributed to the fact that there has been a general decline in outbound travel in Japan (-8 ntperce in 2007) coupled with the absence of KTB representation in the market during that year.

KTB will generate a new marketing strategy for the next fiscal year that will consider qualitative aspects of such markets in order to enhance delivery.

KTB is the country’s top tourism marketing agency.