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Kenya: Kenya Tourism Profile


 Common Zebra and Acacia tree and green grass of Lewa Conservancy with Mnt. Kenya in background,North Kenya,Africa

Kenya turns to other regions as terrorism-induced travel advisories deter tourists from the West

Kenya’s tourism industry was heavily affected by the ever present threat of terrorism throughout 2013. The number of traditional tourists from the West dwindled following repeated travel advisories against visiting the Kenyan coast, a popular destination for inbound tourists. New tourist source markets include Asian nations such as India and China. Kenya has as well opened new commercial airline routes to some of these nations and eased visa requirements for their citizens. Additionally, domestic tourism as well tried to fill the void left by Western tourists but the relatively slow economy led to a fairly poor performance from the category.

Taxation slows industry growth

Kenya’s taxation regime had an adverse result on the increase of tourism. Heavy taxation meant that domestic tourists could not spend as heavily as their sorely missed incoming counterparts. Strict transportation measures introduced due to terrorism meant that equipment upgrades led to higher prices at all levels in the industry, further dampening the enthusiasm of domestic tourists. Trade associations and local politicians failed in their attempts to force the government to reduce taxation levels so as to incentivise spending on the part of both consumers and suppliers. It is no secret that Tanzanian park fees are half those charged in Kenya. Other factors affecting tourism in 2013 included the high cost of electricity, the internet, fuel and insurance, whose rates are either the highest or part the highest on all continent.

Industry players resort to informal mergers and agreements

Tourism players, having been affected by both terrorism and heavy taxation, were forced to enter into informal mergers and agreements. The traditional leaders in the industry could not operate on their own as travel was heavily affected, leading to below-average bookings. This led to a lot of players joining forces with regard to transporting and accommodating tourists. As a lot of hotels on the coast failed to fasten bookings, staffing levels were drastically reduced, leaving players the only option of teaming up temporarily to use the same facilities. It was thus impossible to achieve a equitable increase rate in any category.

Local entities go digital in an effort to boost sales

Improving internet connectivity and reliability continued to encourage players in the industry to offer online platforms. Additionally, leading internet providers are increasingly offering faster processing speeds to boost internet penetration. In particular, the middle class in Kenya, with their smartphones, have led the way in online transactions. The Kenyan government’s strategic focus on improving data and communication technology as well continued to contribute to the increasing reliability and usability of online services in the country. Massive campaigns were launched by tourism players such as airlines, hotels and travel agencies. These player have as well turned to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter inclunding popular radio stations to promote their services.

Investors continue to be optimistic about Kenya’s tourism industry despite challenging environment

Despite the threat of terrorism and increasing government taxes, investors continue to be optimistic about the Kenya’s tourism industry. This is evident from the continuing investment and entry of international brands such as Radison Blu and Lonrho Hotels that are seeking to tap into the growing conference and business tourism category in Kenya. Additionally, the newly established county governments in collaboration with the national tourism board and industry players are expected to implement initiatives that will boost both domestic and inbound tourism during the estimate period.


  • Kenya has been a leading destination for tourists from both the East and West, leading to the development of a lot of facilities. The country’s relative political and economic stability over the years have as well made it a favourite of the majority of incoming tourists to Africa. The major weakness of Kenyan tourism is that it is heavily reliant on tourists from the West.


Kenya's tourist attractions range from safaris through game parks to beautiful beaches on the coast. Until 1969, tourism development had focused on Nairobi's hotels and on its game parks. Subsequently, coastal tourism received increasing attention, and tie-ins between game park and beach stays became additional common, attracting visitors from East Africa and from overseas.
Kenya's coasts offer intriguing cultural and historical surroundings inclunding picturesque old Arab towns and the ruins of sixteenth-century Portuguese settlements. There are ideal conditions for SCUBA diving and game fishing together with 150 miles of unspoiled beaches protected from sharks by the great coral barrier reef. New cottage-style hotels draw on local architectural styles and decor and offer an international standard of luxury. Most visitors to Kenya, however, continue approaching primarily to see its varied wildlife, in particular, the world's major concentrations of elephant, giraffe, antelope, and zebra. Though hunting safaris have declined since their colonial heyday, restricted game hunting continues to draw enthusiasts. Kenya has an outstanding record part African nations in the protection and development of game parks and lodges.
Tourism has a long-standing tradition in Kenya, and in fact was additional well developed there than in any other East African country before independence. Next independence, tourism was the fastest growing sector of the country's economy. Only coffee and tea production brought in additional foreign exchange. Gain from tourism initial exceeded that from coffee in 1989, at the same time as a record 730,000 tourists brought in KSh 6,986 million. Between 1990 and 1993, 3.23 million foreign visitors came to Kenya, representing about 5% of the tourist trade in Africa and about 28% of that of Eastern Africa. Tourism is Kenya's major source of foreign exchange, with gross receipts in 1996 reaching an estimated KSh 25.6bn or $448m. The industry accounts for 19% of the country's GDP and employs thousands.
Kenya's strategy for developing tourism was to pursue the top end of the world tourist market rather than to promote mass tourism. This strategy has worked well thus far, but over the next few years the industry faces a number of pressing problems. Increasing competition from the Far East and South Africa increasingly draw tourists away. Secondly, since Kenya's tourism industry relies largely on visitors from Europe and America, it is vulnerable to economic fluctuations in those regions. Shortages of accommodation and catering facilities continue to hamper the hospitality industry in Kenya's major tourism areas. Marketing, promotion and servicing are below competitors' standards although private touring companies provide good quality training to their staffs. Poor roads and difficult access continue to pose obstacles. Kenya's government recognizes the importance of maintaining the delicate balance between attracting large numbers of visitors and preserving the natural environment of beaches, forests and savanna; new tourist facilities are being built with this balance in mind. In recent years, tour operators have begun to promote non-traditional attractions inclunding historical sites, bird watching and mountain climbing.

KTB opens new source markets in India and China

KTB focussed efforts on rebuilding the image of Destination Kenya as a newly packaged product, targeted at new consumers in India and China, with positive results. In focussing on India and China, KTB automatically dumped each effort at going premium on its product but rather changed strategy to a mass consumer market.
India and China, with the world’s major share of travelling people combined, represented for Kenya an inexhaustible source market that could – if well managed – sustain the industry into the longer term period, even beyond the 2014 estimate. It therefore made economic sense to develop specialised products targeting these two huge markets. The results have been admirable so far.

Local tourists bridge the huge deficit in tourism earnings

With a sense of urgency, the launch of the Domestic Tourism Authority was a strategy move to bridge an existing gap in the tourism circuit that opened up in December 2008 at the same time as all hotels in the coast realized their highest occupancy rates constituting local travellers.
Domestic tourism at the same time as nurtured has the potential of becoming the industry’s mainstay, covering the industry during the long low seasons of February to June and August to November. These two seasons have the chance of two lengthy school holidays of April and August.

Coastal hotels overwhelmed by season’s good tidings

Taking chance of the positive results of the activities of the Domestic Tourism Authority, the coastal hotels and resorts experienced greatest sales from the local market during the Easter season and early Christmas. This trend can be replicated across the country’s major tourist destinations to grow revenue from this emerging segment.

A new look at Kenya’s third Pillar of Vision 2030 - tourism

Tourism is one of Kenya’s Pillars of Vision 2030. This pillar has by presently proved its viability as one of the major sources of earnings and contributors to the country’s revenue base. The plan to establish tourist resort cities in Isiolo, for instance, will act as the gateway to the rest of Eastern Kenya and parts of Central Kenya. This will as well open a northern route that will attract tourists to the a lot of conservancies dotting the foot of Mount Kenya.
As the country recovers from the losses occasioned by the world economic recession and the waning signs of the post-poll chaos of January 2008, tourism continues to play the significant role of projecting the country’s image abroad as a haven of recreation, peace and adventure as seen in the commercials presently appearing in major European and US TV channels and rail subways.
  • Kenya faces a stiff challenge from other African nations, particularly South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia and the island nations of Mauritius and the Seychelles. However, the various government bodies dealing with tourism have embarked on marketing the country as a destination for tourists from across Europe, the Americas and emerging Asian markets. Kenya Airways has countered Ethiopia’s purchase of Dreamliner aircraft with a purchase of its own aircraft. The government has entered into trade agreements with East African neighbours with regard to a joint tourist visa in an effort to try and reduce tourists’ expenses. Kenya has as well entered into code sharing agreements with South Africa, which will increase its range of airline destinations and hence improve its chances of attracting visitors from South Africa.