Interaction, ahead of a personal fact-finding mission with a number of Kenyan tourism industry stakeholders, has shown a clear trend of confidence that 2010 may be the best year yet for the country’s hospitality and safari businesses, and the Kenyan airlines are getting ready to benefit from the trend alongside the businesses on the ground. In 2007, Kenya recorded some 1.8 million visitors and bagged nearly a billion US dollars of income from the tourism industry, but political events in the country were then aggravated by the emerging global financial and economic crisis, leading to a slump in tourism arrivals in 2008.
The following year however, in 2009, the fall bottomed out, and assisted by a concerted effort from the private sector led by Kenya Airways at the time – who a year ago conducted a mega fam trip for nearly 250 travel agents, tour operators, and media representatives – the Kenya Tourist Board successfully battled negative market perception and worked new, emerging, and existing market places, ending the year with only a marginally lower stat count compared to 2007.
The more conservative sections of the industry still believe that by 2012 the two million visitor threshold will be crossed, while the more upbeat stakeholders hope that this can be achieved a year earlier. With the world economy coming out of recession now almost everywhere, it is thought realistic to see a new arrival record established in 2010, although the revenue growth may lag behind for a while as the market still depends on a range of special offers to match the marketing and sales efforts of other long-haul destinations. This in particular applies for beach holidays, while the safari sector – offering a generally unique product with little competition beyond the Eastern African region – might see a return to the per capita revenues from before the crisis.
A joint marketing effort underway through the East African Community, aimed to promote the five East African countries as one destination with many attractions, may also help the effort, but pending side issues like a common tourist visa permitting the entry to ALL of the EAC member states must first be resolved before this initiative can truly bear fruits.
Meanwhile, an imminent visit to Kenya and meetings with key tourism stakeholders in the public and private sector next week should bring about greater clarity and generate quotes to permit our readers in turn to judge the foundation of the re-emerging confidence and trends. What is certain for now already is that Kenya has left the bad times behind and is looking at a bright 2010 performance.