A Thomson’s gazelle runs past a tourists’ vehicle in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, May 27, 2017. Amboseli National Park, which is located in southern Kenya, is a unique ecosystem that is home to various kinds of wild animals. (Xinhua/Chen Cheng)
Reduced attacks by the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab on the Kenyan soil helped the country grow tourism numbers by 9.8 percent in 2017, a senior government official said here on Thursday.
Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, said tourist arrivals increased to 1.47 million in 2017 from 1.34 million in 2016.
“The increase in the number is because of the resilience and confidence the visitors have showed on Kenya because of our increased investment in security,” Balala told journalists in Nairobi.
He said investment in security had ensured that Al-Shabaab does not stage attacks in Nairobi or beach-tourism rich coastal city of Mombasa.
Kenya’s security forces have restricted the terrorist group to the shared border with Somalia and in Boni Forest.
Balala said the United States was Kenya’s leading source market, growing by 17 percent to top 114,507 arrivals, contributing 11.8 percent of arrivals last year.
Kenya Airways announced last month it plans to start direct flights to the U.S in October, potentially lifting tourist arrivals from that country.
The U.S was followed by Britain with an 11.1 percent share of arrivals numbering 107,078 arrivals. Uganda came in third with a share of 6.4 percent, closely followed by India with a contribution of 6.2 percent.
China closed the list of the top five performers with a share of 5.5 percent contribution to the total arrivals in 2017, said Balala.
According to Balala, domestic tourist also increased with a total of 4.05 million bed nights being taken up by Kenyans in 2017 compared to 3.5 million in 2016, denoting a 15.9 percent growth.
Balala attributed this growth to increased investment by the government in promoting domestic tourism through awareness campaigns that sensitized Kenyans on attractions, destinations, and experiences in Kenya.
Betty Radier, Kenya Tourism Board CEO said the launch of the Chinese-built Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway coupled with increased air connectivity has greatly improved access to tourism attractions.
She further said the opening of new properties and the entrance of more international brands into Kenya’s hospitality industry has greatly expanded the country’s capacity in both quality hotel beds and in meetings and conferencing facilities.