Kenya's tourism set for major growth in 2018, boosted by awards

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-18 19:00:53|Editor: Jiaxin
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NAIROBI, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's tourism industry is expected to witness remarkable growth in 2018 following recognition by a handful of prestigious international awards accorded to several tourist destinations in the country, analysts have noted.

The country won five global tourist awards this year, further elevating its status and fame across the world.

Kenya was in the first half of this year named the world's top Safari destination during the World Travel Awards held in Vietnam.

The east African nation beat regional competitors such as Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Uganda as it clinched the award for the fourth time. Kenya, having previously won in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Despite a challenging second half of the year, which was characterized by intense politicking, Kenya won four other awards at the World Luxury Hotels Awards 2017.

These are Africa's leading national park, won by Maasai Mara National Reserve; Africa's Leading Tourism Board won by the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) for the sixth year running; Africa's luxury adventure destination and luxury tented safari camp won by Sarova Mara Game Camp Hotel and best luxury hotel in the continent and the luxury spa resort won by The Sarova Stanley and the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resorts, respectively.

"In our view, the increased number of international awards accorded to the Kenyan hospitality industry will market it globally, increasing the number of arrivals in 2018," Cytonn, a Nairobi-based investment firm, noted Monday.

The firm believed that beside the award, the sector would grow because of a stable political environment and intense marketing by the KTB.

"We have a positive outlook for the tourism sector for 2018, further supported by an increase in international arrivals, increased domestic tourism and continued marketing by the KTB of Kenya as not just a Safari destination but also a Business Tourism and MICE (Meeting, Incentive, Conference, and Exhibition) destination," said Cytonn.

The number of international tourists visiting Kenya in the first nine months of the year rose 10 percent to 720,376 as compared to a similar period last year, defying election jitters. In 2016, international arrivals rose 17 percent to 877,602.

"If elections did not slow down the number of tourists visiting Kenya, then in 2018 the figures can only go up, especially due to the positive developments in the political front and improved security as the government has offered several incentives like removal of Value Added Tax charges on national park fees," said Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi.

Meanwhile, tourism stakeholders said hotels have recorded 80 percent booking during this festive season in the Coastal region.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) said Monday that 60 percent of the booking comes from domestic tourists who are flocking into the region for the December holiday.

KAHC executive officer Sam Ikwaye said some hotels had already reported 100 percent booking over the Christmas-New Year period.

"Hotels have recorded a significant increase in bookings as numbers of domestic guests push up the occupancy to more than 80 percent this festive season. The packages are also friendly for guests, "said Ikwaye.

He said cottages and apartments are among hotels that have recorded highest number of both local and foreign tourists. Sarova Whitesands Beach hotel said 85 percent of its visitors are domestic, with overall occupancy at above 80 percent.

Speaking to Xinhua, Ikwaye attributed the increase of bookings to relative calm in the country following charged political uncertainties, long holiday and the introduction of the Chinese-built Nairobi-Mombasa Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) .

Ikwaye said tourist confidence in Kenya has increased following the end of the electioneering period.

Tourism cabinet secretary Najib Balala said the country is beginning to reap the fruits of aggressive efforts to boost the sector.