Kenyans travelling around the country in the first quarter of the year helped cushion the tourism sector from collapse.

Latest statistics show that the domestic tourism segment of the industry grew its occupancy by 45 per cent, the best performance compared to all other segments of the sector.

Figures released by Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) show that domestic tourism earned the sector up to Sh3.65 billion of the total Sh8.08 billion earned during the period under review.

KTB managing director, Ongong’a Achieng’, says domestic tourism has continued to record good performance as people become more aware of taking holidays in the country.

He also noted that the media campaigns by various players in the sector have also borne fruit seen in the higher bed occupancy.

Total bed occupancy in the night increased by 67 per cent from 30 per cent during the same period last year.

Earlier in the year, the Domestic Tourism Council of Kenya (DTCK) unveiled an elaborate campaign, Tembea Kenya that the council’s chairperson, Ms Anastazia Wakesho, says was still alive although not much activity had been witnessed.

The campaign will continue to promote domestic travel, she said.

“We are waiting for a budget to help us unveil even bigger campaigns but for now we are partnering with various institutions to create grass root awareness,” she said.

The campaigns to encourage even more travel from Kenyans is running parallel with international campaigns as players in the sector unveil multi-pronged initiatives to revive the sector that went into a slump in January and February.

Tourism suffered in the months as political violence engulfed the country, scaring away tourists, who either postponed travel or re-routed to other competing destinations.

KTB statistics for the term show tourist arrivals dropped by 52.3 per cent compared to the same period last year. A total of 130,585 tourists arrived in the country compared to over 273,000 last year.

Cross-border tourists who had shown positive growth in 2007 reduced in number by 37 per cent, recording a low of 143,834 arrivals.

The reduced number of visitors pressed down the first quarter earnings , which had been projected at Sh21 billion, to a paltry Sh8.08 billion.

This drop is expected to have a major impact on the country’s economy where tourism has been a major foreign exchange earner. According to a researcher with the board, Kennedy Manyalla, if more money is not injected into marketing activities, the country will not recover by the end of the year.

The sector wants Sh1.5 billion to help in the campaigns, especially in major source markets to revive the crucial travel sector by November.

“Without intervention, we can expect a 54 per cent decline in the earnings compared to last year,” he said.

In 2007, the sector earned Sh65.4 billion compared to Sh52 billion in 2006.

The industry is rolling out the first phase of a joint partnership with tour operators in source markets. In June, the players are hosting tour and travel agents from various markets in the country.

The UK remained the country’s largest source market though arrivals declined by 55 per cent to 21,974 while the US arrivals stood at 12,945.

The sector is however planning a major marketing campaign to the US led by the minister of tourism and other sector players. The US has risen to be Kenya’s second source market with Italy at third and Germany being fourth.

Conference tourism was the hardest hit during the first quarter having dropped by 87.4 per cent compared to the massive growth that was witnessed last year. Only 974 people came into the country for conferences as major conferences scheduled during the period were cancelled.

Business travel declined by 21 per cent as only 35,914 travellers came into the country compared to 45,338 during the same period last year.

Recovery activities are expected to continue into next year for the country to surpass the numbers recorded in 2007.