Kenyan minister targets 2018 for tourism sector recovery

Terror attacks in Kenya is affecting the country’s key tourism sector. Tourism is Kenya’s most important industry, after agriculture. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the industry is responsible for 14 percent of GDP and 12 percent of total employment. However, due to increasing terror attacks in Kenya, several countries have issued travel warnings to their residents over the past year.

Al-Shabaab, which is affiliated to global terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda, has targeted Kenya with repeated attacks in response to Kenyan military involvement in Somalia. But with government beefing up security and increasing funding to the sector, new tourism minister Najib Balala expects it to recover in two years.

“We are going to work hard to not only create jobs and improve our GDP, but also to stabilise our currency by getting the numbers in, by getting the foreign currency in,” Balala, who took over the tourism ministry last month told Reuters.

The Kenyan shilling fell 11 percent against the dollar last year as forex earnings from tourism drop. Balala noted that the fact that there has been no major attacks over the past eight months show that the government’s efforts are paying off.

According to him, the tourism ministry plans to spend Sh5.2 billion ($50.83 million) this fiscal year, basically focused on measures to foster tourism growth.

“From December this year we are going to see a lot of visitors come in … To fully recover, I think it will be winter 2018,” he said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected Kenya’s real gross domestic product growth to accelerate to about six percent in 2016, riding on the continuation of strong investment momentum, better agricultural yield owing to good rain and a pick-up in tourism. The Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) had also said in June that it expects the tourism industry to recover by February 2016. But projected growth in the industry will rely greatly on how major tourism source markets advise their citizens on the attacks in Kenya.

Visitor numbers dropped 12 percent in the first 11 months of 2015 to 690,893, following travel warnings issued by western governments after a spate of Islamist attacks that killed more than 400 people, the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) said. Some of these warnings have been lifted.

The government is offering incentives to charter operators who take tourists to the Kenyan coast, as well as reduce entry fees for tourists.  Hotel operators have also been advised to modernise their facilities.