Build Kenya’s capacity to attract more tourists

There are some exciting developments for the tourism industry, which has been really down since the climax of the Covid-19 pandemic from 2020. Perhaps the most significant is the 31 new hotels to be put up this year, providing 4,268 rooms.

This is an increase from the 25 new units built in 2023 by some international hotel chains. It is not possible that any investor would have done this if not convinced about possible good returns.

At the peak of the scourge, the tourism and hospitality sector was brought down to its knees, with international visitors staying away as airlines stopped flights. Catering for domestic travellers kept the sector alive.

As tourism numbers begin to rise again, domestic tourism must never be ignored again and should, in fact, be boosted through more off-season incentives to get Kenyans to visit and enjoy the attractions in their own country.

Tourism was among the biggest casualties of the coronavirus outbreak first reported in the country in early 2020. The current growth in tourist arrivals is a boost for the economy, with increased revenue for the hotel, travel and allied businesses, job creation and overall development.

Hotel occupancy in Nairobi, for instance, remains high, necessitating the construction of more rooms.

International arrivals through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport grew from 1.06 million in 2022 to 1.35 million in 2023. However, Kenya still lags far behind Morocco, Egypt, and South Africa. While the others attract over 10 million tourists in a year, Kenya manages only slightly more than one million.

There is a lot more work to do to boost the numbers. One is capitalising on events such as the Safari Rally at Naivasha, which has in the past few days pulled in a lot of visitors.

The Tourism ministry and all the stakeholders must work together to build the capacity to attract and cater for more visitors. It is important that even as the country seeks to attract the high-spending international visitors, it must also cater for other categories, especially the domestic tourists.