Future of tourism remains bright despite challenges
Friday, October 15th, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
Tourism has taken a hard knock from Covid since Kenya reported its first case in March last year.
However, it is important for stakeholders to take stock of how the sector has been responding to emerging challenges.
The first development worth remarking about is that as more people get vaccinated, international skies continue to open, thus facilitating an increase in domestic and international travel.
Nairobi and Mombasa have been among the beneficiaries of this revival in travel, registering an uptick in arrivals in recent months.
This is a signal tourism is on the rise, and as long as infection rates remain manageable, there is every indication the sector’s future is bright.
One other milestone worth taking note of has to do with the recent decision by UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to remove Kenya from its red to amber list.
This recategorisation has opened a window of opportunity for more travels between the countries.
Traditionally, the UK has been a leading source market for tourists visiting Kenya and the review means travel and tourism sectors are set to benefit.
Similarly, Kenyans travelling to the UK are expected to increase and the restrictions they will be required to observe will be eased.
Government agencies have been tracking data for tourism and one of the emerging trends is that the curve of arrivals has started going up again.
As we head towards Christmas, the numbers can only grow, especially in destinations like Mombasa, Diani, Naivasha and Kisumu.
Going forward, therefore, we expect to see more establishments re-opening and recalling workers to meet the projected growth in guest numbers.
Before Covid hit, tourism had generated over 900,000 jobs, accounting for about 5.5 per cent of all formal sector jobs.
This is evidence of the important role that the sector has been playing in growing the economy and contributing to Gross Domestic Product, not to mention inflows of foreign currency.
One other critical point of information is that the government and tourism private sector players have put in place measures that will facilitate the sector recovery.
For instance, the Health ministry has given guidelines on how hotels and entertainment establishments ought to operate to prevent or reduce new infections.
The building of roads will also reduce connection and transit times to the airport and to popular tourist destinations.
Similarly, county governments have offered incentives for tourist establishments to resume normal business.
The gains notwithstanding, a great deal of work remains to be done to ensure tourism numbers recover to the levels last seen in 2019 and that over the next one or two years, we surpass the numbers.
This calls for increased sector investment, coupled with better measurement of tourism numbers and spending.
It is significant, for instance, that domestic tourists spent Sh343.3 billion in 2019. As such, there is need to put in place measures that will encourage Kenyans to travel more and appreciate the beauty this country has to offer.
With short school holidays coming up this week and in December, we ought to see a jump in the number of trips that Kenyans take for leisure, business or to spend time with their loved ones.
Industry players have every reason to be optimistic about the sector revival. However, there is need to ensure the contributions it has made to the economy are secured.
Similarly, they should continue to seek ways in which the gains can be improved.
To do this effectively, the use of data will remain critical because going forward this is what will inform decisions made by State and private sector players to revive tourism. — The writer is a Partner and Head of Content at House of Romford — [email protected]