Kenya is among a select number of countries in the world that welcomed more than 1.2 billion people in 2016 as well as experienced a significant share of the 6 billion people in the world that toured within their borders, in an unprecedented growth of the domestic travel sector.
This is according to the latest tourist barometer report released late January by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
“The robust growth in international arrivals maintained a steady upward trajectory, to mark a 3.9 per cent growth, which translates to some 46 million more overnight visitors as compared to 2015”.
Further, the UNWTO report finds 2016 to be the seventh consecutive year of sustained
growth post the 2009 global economic financial crisis that majorly affected the travel sector.
“Tourism has shown extraordinary strength and resilience in recent years, despite many challenges, particularly those related to safety and security, ” said outgoing UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai in a statement.
“Yet, international travel continues to grow strongly and contribute to job creation and the wellbeing of communities around the world.”
Good year for Africa
As a testimony to the foregoing sentiments, the UNWTO study shows that the African continent welcomed 58 million tourists, a remarkable 8 per cent growth from 2015. This figure is expected to reach 134 million by 2030.
“This means that Africa showed great recovery after two weak years, plagued by the Ebola pandemic and rampant terrorist attacks. “
Compared to the rest of the regions, the
continent edged a step closer to Asia and the pacific who led the numbers in 2016 arrivals.
The Americas and the Middle East maintained the set momentum but showed mixed results across different locations, thereby scoring a 2 per cent increase and a 4 per cent decrease respectively.
As the good tidings continue to roll, Africa as a whole has seen a rising interest in tourism business from different corners of the globe, owing to the fast economic growth across her nations and improved business environment.
For instance, UNWTO estimates that the number of tour companies based in Sub Saharan Africa has multiplied by seven in the last five years.
However, despite those enviable milestones, it seems the country is not expected to rest on its laurels yet as the ever-competitive world sets another high bar for its tourism sector.
The year of sustainable tourism
As stipulated by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2015, 2017 is expected to be the year of sustainable tourism for development.
“2017 will mark 12 months of celebrating and promoting the contribution of tourism to the building of a better world, which is the major goal of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.”
This is expected to reinforce Kenya’s 2030 plan for realizing the achievement of the
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many Kenyans especially at the Coast had lost their jobs on low tourist arrivals due to poor security situation but a slow build up of numbers may resuscitate the ailing sector.
The goals of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 were officially presented in Madrid during the opening of the recently held Spanish Tourism Fair, FITUR .
The annual fair also hosted the INVESTOUR,
which brings together tourism businesses from Africa, Europe and the rest of the world in a unique platform aimed at discussing business opportunities in the African continent.
This year, discussions majorly centered on technology and design of new touristic products and capacity development for youth and women in tourism.
Fully tap into the sector
“It’s yet another chance to explore how we can fully tap into the sector, while maintaining high responsibility for natural resources, culture and heritage as well as bolstering human relations and freedom of movement in every destination across the world,” commented Jumia Travel CEO Paul Midy, who was part of the panelists at the INVESTOUR conference.
This year’s event, which marked the 8th edition, brought together tourism Ministers from 20 African countries including Kenya’s tourism Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala.
In his comment, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai noted that, “INVESTOUR has demonstrated not only the high relevance of such platforms to advance business, but also the immense potential of the tourism sector in the Africa as reflected in the very positive results that the region had in terms of international tourism in 2016.”
BY MOSES OMUSOLO