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Kenya lost Sh80b in tourism revenue due to coronavirus

By Noel Wandera
Tuesday, June 30th, 2020
Tourism CS Najib Balala. Photo/Courtesy
In summary
    • Tourism sector is one of the leading sources of foreign exchange, earning Sh163.56 billion for the country last year, which had been expected to grow one per cent in 2020.
    • Balala said the ministry will only focus on domestic tourism for the remainder of 2020 as international travel restrictions are expected to be in place in order to curb the spread of Covid-19.
    • On July 6, President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to address the Nation on the review of the containment measures that have so far been given including the cessation of moment in and out of Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera counties and also the dusk -to-dawn curfew.

Kenya has lost Sh80 billion so far in tourism revenue, about half of last year’s total, due to the coronavirus crisis, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said yesterday.

Balala said the situation could get worse before improving, with the performance projected to dip by a massive 70 per cent this year.

Balala gave the grim statistics w when he received a report on the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on tourism in the country.

Research findings from the Kenyatta University-based Global Tourism Resilience Crisis Management Satellite Centre (GTRCMC) show that the country will certainly not garner one million international arrivals this year.

Esther Munyiri, the lead researcher at GTRCMC, on whose findings Balala based his projections, said the decrease will be progressive, depending on the month the sector is opened up.

“If we open in July, we shall receive 861,000, with 615,000 international tourists arriving in September, and 450,000 in the third scenario, which is December,” said Munyiri.

The statistics were released yesterday, even as hotels across the country, and especially in Maasai Mara are recording negligible bookings during the peak June to September season when tourist visit the game reserve to witness almost two million wildebeest migrate from Tanzania’s Serengeti to the south of Kenya’s Masai Mara in search of lush grazing grounds and life-giving water. Tourism is a major foreign exchange earner and contributes 10 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product.

It employs either directly or indirectly, 1.6 million. Last year, it generated receipts worth Sh163.5 billion from 2 million arrivals, a figure Balala said will fall far below in 2020. 

“In 2020/21, we will get back less than 30 per cent,” said Balala, equivalent to Sh48.9 billion.

Aviation sector

The industry’s performance drivers include aviation sector, which the CS said has been grounded for the first six months. Others are security, political instability, ease of doing business and marketing efforts. 

Excitement is already building up in the sector, in anticipation of the reopening, especially after President Uhuru Kenyatta, in a virtual Corporate Council of African (CCA) Leaders Forum last Friday hinted at the resumption of domestic flights presumably after the lock downs are lifted on July 6th to gauge the country’s preparedness before resumption of international flights.

“First and foremost, just to answer the question on KQ. We are going to be starting domestic flights and this is what we are going to use over let’s say the next couple of days because we are opening up the lockdown that we’ve had between counties. 

And ultimately I think that’s what’s going to set the pace for getting a day for us to open up now once again to international flights,” President Kenyatta had said.

The GTRCMC research is now advancing a medium term recovery strategy that anticipates the sector will open up from July 6 to December , starting with domestic tourism, regional tourism, and culminating in international arrivals in December.

Within this period, recovery efforts will revolve around targeting Kenya’s almost 1.02 million middle class, and a suggested one-week nation-wide holiday in August.

Domestic tourism

However, to attract Kenyans to participate in domestic tourism, Balala said a new pricing model was required as the packages were too expensive.

“If the pricing is too high, you won’t get locals participating in domestic tourism,” he said in reference to tour operators who charge as much as $300 (Sh3,1950) per trip to destinations such as Maasai Mara Game Park.

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