Kenya’s cabinet secretary for tourism and wildlife, Najib Balala, expects the country to earn 15 percent more from tourism in 2018 as visitor numbers grow 17 to 18 percent, with more tourists visiting the country from China and the United States.
Speaking at a media briefing in Nairobi, Balala said that Kenya received about 1.4 million visitors in 2017, an influx that earned the East African country Ksh120 billion ($1.19 billion). The total contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP was KSh769.1 billion ($7.4 billion), 9.7 percent of GDP in 2017, and is forecast to rise by 5.5 percent in 2018, and to rise by 5.1 percent per annum to KSh1.3 trillion ($12.9 billion), 9.1 percent of GDP in 2028.
To encourage tourists from the U.S., national carrier Kenya Airways started its direct flight from New York to Nairobi in October. Balala said Kenya has also intensified marketing campaigns in China to attract more Chinese tourists. The goal is that more than 100,000 Chinese tourists would visit Kenya annually over the next two years. About 70,000 Chinese tourists visited Kenya in 2017.
Economic relations between Kenya and China have grown in recent times. Currently, China is Kenya’s largest trading partner, investor and contractor. Balala wants a similar relationship in tourism.
“We want Sino-Kenya people-to-people exchanges to reach the level of bilateral cooperation in commerce and investments,” he said.
The minister also added that Kenya wants to prioritize the expansion of domestic tourism, as it can help to cushion the sector from volatility of international tourist arrivals.
“We want to open up domestic tourism to the western and northern region of the country which has a rich cultural heritage that is unexploited,” Balala said.
Kenya Tourism Board is currently holding the 8th Magical Kenya Travel Expo in Nairobi. It ends on Friday, 5 October 2018.