Uganda, the youngest and most attractive country in the world, is Kenya’s top visitor in Africa.
In the reciprocating turn of events, Uganda has taken the lead as Kenya’s top source market for tourists in Africa, as Germany and Italy tail the numbers globally.
According to latest data from the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), The Pearl of Africa almost doubled her score of 29, 038 visitors in 2015 to 51, 023 for the year ended 2016.
East African Visa
The report attributes this growth, to among other factors, the provision of Interstate Passes (EA Visa) which has enabled cross-border tourism for expatriates working in Uganda, as well as travellers wishing to explore both countries in a single regional tour.
Uganda takes a leading position on other notable key source markets such as South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda, and a notably slow-to-growth Tanzania.
An earlier report by KTB indicates an upward trajectory for total Africa arrivals, rising steadily from 23 per cent in 2014, to 26 per cent and 28 per cent in 2015/2016 respectively.
Despite the earlier decline due to the famous visa spurt between Kenya and South Africa, the latter showed notable growth, rising from 30,500 in 2015 to reach 35,926 in 2016.
Why the numbers soar
Estelle Verdier, Jumia Travel managing director traces this positive progress to factors such as increased alternative source marketing by tourist bodies, economic growth in most parts of the continent and increased regional trade, and the growth of e-commerce and global digital inclusion.
“The online presence of both hotels and tour operators has gone a long way in boosting awareness and serving travellers with channels and options unlike in the earlier years when you could only rely on friends for reviews, advice and direction,” commented Ms Verdier.
Internationally, the USA overcame the UK as Kenya’s top source market for tourists by registering 97, 883 arrivals in 2016 compared to UK’s 96, 404. A comparison between the 2015 and 2016 numbers reveals a worrying decline of 2, 000 visitors from the UK, while noting a much needed 13, 000 gain from the USA.
KTB attributes the USA growth to aggressive marketing of the country as a safari destination while blaming the UK for not restoring all Kenya-bound charter flights even after prevailing travel bans had been lifted.
India made a surprising entry to become third largest tourist market for Kenya with 64, 116 arrivals last year, an increase of over 15,000 visitors compared to the 49, 756 in 2015.
Neighbouring Uganda took up the fourth position ahead of China which is viewed as a growing target market for African destinations.
The remarkable rise by China against traditional favorites such as Germany and Italy, who came in at position six and seven respectively is attributed to an increased number of direct and indirect flights servicing the two countries.
China closed the year at 47, 860 visitors compared to 29, 790 for 2015, while Germany reached 43, 502, up from 38, 236, to beat Italy’s 35, 953.
While noting the vital need for tour promoters to provide seamless services to tourists, Verdier says the remarkable growth in visits to the country is encouraging:
“When a visitor finds in-depth information, booking and payment methods all under the same roof or on a single screen, then it goes without saying they will consciously or otherwise be more persuaded to take up the trip.”
Cities most frequented
At a more local level, Mombasa took the lead on the growth curve with a 22.2 per cent increase from 2015 to hit 92, 872 foreign visits. However, actual numbers are still in favor of the capital, Nairobi, having received 782, 013 arrivals, up from 671, 789 in 2015, which translates to a rise of 16.2 per cent.
That interesting development is explained by a recent Jumia Travel report which says the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, and Conference) industry has been quite instrumental in growing the capital city’s arrivals, with most business travelers taking a day or two to two nearby attractions, as visitors still hold the coast region as a rest and relaxation beach destination.
BY MOSES OMUSOLO