Kenya earned Sh87 billion from the tourism sector, marking the third straight annual decline from the Sh98 billion earned in 2011. The effects of this decline are already devastating thousands of households that depend on the sector through jobs in the hospitality sector. Heightened terrorist activity and the subsequent travel advisories issued by several foreign governments to their citizens caused the sharp decline in visitor arrivals.

Official statistics released yesterday revealed worsening prospects in the sector that was once Kenya?s jewel that brought in billions of shillings in foreign currencies.

?This (lower income) was attributed to a decrease of 11.1 per cent in the number of international visitor arrivals over the same period mainly due to adverse negative travel advisories by key source markets,? the annual economic report says.

The few visitors who came spent even fewer days on holiday in the country on average, cutting their stay by a day to 12.3 days, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Shorter stays could be an indicator that the country is now attracting more budget-conscious visitors, while the wealthier ones opt for alternative destinations.

Jobs lost

Kenya received 861,400 international visitors through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and Mombasa?s Moi International Airport, the two main entry points for visitors flying into the country.

Insecurity fears fuelled by Al-Shabaab militants, following tens of terror attacks in several towns, have depressed the hotel and travel segments with some businesses already closing down. Several hotels along the Indian Ocean coast have reported operating at capacities as low as 20 per cent.

Predictably, international arrivals at the Mombasa airport shrunk nearly 40 per cent as the region has long been the epicentre of terror scares. International conferences fell by a fifth to become the most affected business line, taking the shine off the country as a regional centre for meetings.

About 4,000 jobs have already been lost in the ?accommodation and food services activities? sector, the Government reported, which could also be linked to the falling prospects in tourism. The ripple effect from the job losses alone could be huge for individual households whose likely breadwinners are now out of work.

Kenyan currency is also exposed with the cut of the critical supply stream of dollars and other currencies. While the State has not formally acknowledged the exposure, the shilling is currently trading at near four-year lows against the US dollar.

The State has taken measures to cushion tourism from a further drop, including marketing the country to non-traditional source markets in Asia and granting tax breaks for Kenyan companies whose workers take holidays in local facilities.

By Moses Michira, The Standard


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