Tourism sector to focus on domestic market as sector recovers

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The country’s tourism sector is pegging it’s recovery on the domestic segment as other markets slowly open up, Tourism CS Najib Balala said yesterday.

According to Balala, as the sector steadily recovers domestic tourist have proved to be the pillar contributing 80 per cent to the sector’s earning.

With this statistics, the Ministry of Tourism is now in a strategy to develop products that are friendly to Kenyans who are currently the key source market.A tour guide at the Emboo River Camp drives an electric-powered safari vehicle during a game drive safari at the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Narok County, Kenya July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi© Thomson Reuters A tour guide at the Emboo River Camp drives an electric-powered safari vehicle during a game drive safari at the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Narok County, Kenya July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

For instance he noted that the decision to cut park fees by 50 per cent saw many Kenyans visit the national parks and reserves.

“Reducing the cost of park fees saw many Kenyans flocking the parks and this really boosted the sector’s earnings,” said Balala.

The improved performance saw the Kenya Wildlife Service extend the lowered rates till December this year.

Starting 2022, there will be a new pricing model for the parks whereby during high season prices will go up while the low rates will be during low season.

“We are now set to deliver new strategically priced products that will see Kenyans visit more destinations in the country,” said Balala.

Balala however noted that full recovery of the sector will be in 2024, noting that numbers will start getting to 2019 levels in 2023.

“We are still not talking of recovery with the challenges in vaccination , new Covid-19 variants and the traffic light regime with the red, amber and green alerts, we are not out of the woods yet,” he said.

The international market is steadily recovering with 305,635 tourists visiting Kenya in the first six months of 2021 , industry data shows.

New variants however are seeing the countries impose restrictions to travel to the country, thus vaccination is key to showing the country’s preparedness.

“People want to travel therefore it is upon us as the country to be prepared by vaccinating our population and following protocols so that tourists see us to be prepared,” said Balala.

He added that if all these are followed, there will be reduced obstacles to travel thus attracting more international tourists.

“If we follow protocols we won’t even need to have tourists goin to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated and have the negative PCR test.”

Balala spoke at the Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters when he received cheques that will go towards the naming of elephants at Amboseli national park.

Kenya will officially host the first annual Magical Kenya Elephant Naming Festival starting October 9 in Amboseli.

The exercise is meant to celebrate and champion elephant conservation by giving the public an opportunity to adopt and give the selected elephants unique identities.

The tourism sector is a key pillar of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with a unique ability to contribute to most of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including through providing opportunities for youth and women, and helping preserve and promote natural and cultural heritage.

Pandemic related shocks saw the industry lose about 1.2 million full-time jobs , according to the Tourism Research Institute .

This translates into financial losses of Sh192 billion in direct labour earnings, and $4.48billion(Sh492billion) to the entire tourism sector value chain.

Mohamed Wanyoike, chairman of the Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) who spoke recently said the industry was on a recovery path as the easing of Covid restrictions coupled with ramped up vaccination injects confidence among travelers.

“The industry is currently performing at about 40 percent of the 2019 numbers and this is an indication that the worst is behind us,” said Wanyoike.

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