Nairobi ranked fourth as Africa’s most popular tourist destination

Tourists enjoy the Nairobi Safari Walk which provides a simulated experience of Kenya’s vast outdoors and her varied wildlife. Photo/FILE

A new global survey has ranked Nairobi as the fourth most popular tourist destination in Africa.

Kenya’s capital city will receive 1.8 million visitors this year, who are expected to inject Sh126 billion into the country’s economy.

The 2012 MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index released on Wednesday projects a 10 per cent growth in visitor numbers and a 16.7 per cent jump in tourist spending over the 2011 index results.

Ranked first in the continent is Cairo in Egypt, which expects 3.3 million tourists, followed by South Africa’s Johannesburg, with 2.5 million visitors, and Morocco’s Casablanca, which anticipates 2.1 million visitors.

The growth projections could ease pressure in the Kenya tourism industry, grappling with fears of insecurity.

The study also comes months after Kenya’s quest for new investments received a shot in the arm, ranking Nairobi among the 120 most competitive locations for new capital by the respected Economist Intelligence Unit.

The MasterCard index, now in its second year, is used as a yardstick for understanding the global economy and the flow of commerce. 

The index ranks 132 global cities by their total international visitor arrivals and the respective cross-border spending by the said visitors in the destination cities.

It also gives visitor and passenger growth forecasts for this year.

Apart from Africa’s top four, the other champions on the continent include Accra, Beira, Cape Town, Dakar, Durban, Kampala, Lagos, Maputo, and Tunis.

“A key finding of the index is that Nairobi ranks fourth out of 13 cities surveyed in Africa — both in terms of visitor numbers and visitor spend — highlighting its status as the financial heart of the East African region and a significant African economic hub,” Mr Charlton Goredema, MasterCard’s East Africa and Indian Ocean Islands market manager said in a statement.

“In addition, the noteworthy 16.7 per cent growth in projected visitor spending for Nairobi sees the city ranked 10th globally among the fastest growing destination cities examined in the index,” Mr Goredema adds.

“The Kenyan government’s identification of air transport as being vital to continued growth of the country’s economy and the resulting investment in upgrading Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is now yielding results, as can be seen in the index,” he adds.

Connecting the rest

Kenya Airways is also readying itself for growth in visitor numbers with its publicly stated 2013 target of becoming the leading carrier on the continent — interlinking all African capital cities and connecting the rest of Africa to the world via its Nairobi hub.

Most visitors to Nairobi are forecast to come from London (203,000), Amsterdam (149,000), and Johannesburg (138,000).