Within 50 years of independence, Kenya has stamped its position on the world map as a vibrant tourism destination. The country has made remarkable strides in the promotion of tourism, a leading source of foreign exchange.
Kenya has emerged as a leading voice on the world stage in the conservation arena, through tourism, collaboration with international agreements, branding, partnerships with the NGO and scientific communities and documentaries, which have shown the world “Magical Kenya” through the Kenya Tourism Board.
The national wildlife enforcement agency, Kenya Wildlife Service, is respected worldwide, and the protected area network supports a vibrant tourism industry.Indeed, for decades, wildlife safaris have been Kenya’s top tourism draw.
Kenya’s tourism earnings dropped by 7.4 per cent to Kshs96 billion (US$1.1 billion) in the 2012/2013 financial year due to uncertainties caused by the March 4, 2013, General Election. The earnings were Kshs7.7 billion ($88.5 million) less than the Kshs103.9 billion ($1.2 billion) generated the previous year. Tourism has managed to hold on to the gains of 2011, despite fears of a downward trend due to the concluded elections.
Kenya attracted 1.78 million tourists in 2012, a 0.3 per cent decline compared to 2011. The country earned Kshs65.4 billion ($751.7 million) from tourism in 2007. Tourism earnings grew from Kshs62.5 billion ($718.4 million) in 2009 to Kshs97.3 billion ($1.1 billion) in 2011, when tourism arrivals stood at 1.7 million. In 2011, the tourism sector recorded a 32.8 per cent surge in revenues to Kshs97.9 billion ($1.1 billion). Kenya earned Kshs98 billion (US$1.1 billion) from the 1.8 tourists who visited the country in 2011.
From 2008 to 2011, tourism arrivals in Kenya climbed from about 1.2 million to 1.8 million, a 50 per cent increase. Tourism revenue doubled over the same period, from Kshs53 billion ($609.2 million) to Kshs98 billion ($1.1 billion).
In 2005, Kenya earned Kshs49 billion ($563.2 million), up from Kshs42 billion in 2004 ($482.8 million). Since 2001, the tourism industry has grown steadily, risingfrom about 900,000 visitors against an earning of Kshs24.5 billion ($281.6 million), until 2007, when Kshs65.4 billion ($751.7 million) was realised, with 1.8 million visitors from around the world visiting the country.
Despite the 2007/8 post-election violence that almost brought Kenya’s economy to its knees, with tourism earnings dropping to as low as Kshs53 billion ($588.9 million) in 2008, the Kenya Tourist Board, together with the partners in the sector, put in efforts to ensure the recovery of the industry.
These figures are a long way from those of 1962, when tourism earned the country £5 million ($8.1 million) in foreign exchange. In 1969, the figure had risen to £16.7 million ($27.1 million) in foreign exchange from 262,000 visitors, slightly less than the value of coffee exports of £16.8 million ($27.2 million).