The year 2020 has been challenging for the tourism industry globally as a result of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The global pandemic halted tourism activities for months with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predicting a decline in international travel by between 58% and 80% this year due to widespread travel restrictions.
Kenya’s situation has been no better as our tourism industry was also harshly hit by the pandemic with travel and hospitality establishments forced to suspend operations. Official figures indicate that Kenya received 470,971 international visitors between January and October 2020, compared to 1,718,550, a decline of 72% compared to 2019.
But despite these setbacks, I am glad that we were able to adapt to the situation in many ways and the sector’s revival is well in motion.
We made major strides towards the resumption of tourism activities in the country. The drafting and release of the Magical Kenya Tourism and hospitality protocols has played a critical role in ensuring that activities resume safely.
It is important to note that these protocols were developed in line with international standards and guidelines. This led to Kenya being awarded the Safe Travel Stamp by the World Tourism and Travel Council which was followed by the awarding of the Safer Travel Seal by Rebuilding Travel. These awards have been key in creating destination confidence to the international traveller.
The Air travel protocols released by the Ministry of Transport also allowed us to safely resume passenger air travel following several months of suspension. So far, full operations have resumed with most of the major local and international airlines resuming business in the country. This was one of the major strides we have made in our recovery journey. We received 14,049 international arrivals during the month of August when air travel resumed. The following months have recorded a gradual increase in numbers with September and October recording 26,018 and 39,894 arrivals, respectively. This is proof of the growing confidence in the destination and that people are eager to resume travelling back into the country.
During this period, many hospitality and conference facilities were able to take advantage of the period to improve their facilities in readiness to offering of improved and competitive services. This will be key to the destination going forward.
The period also saw great progress in our conservation efforts especially in the case in some of our most endangered species including the rhinos and elephants. The destination recorded 35 new Rhino births at Olpajeta conservancy and an Elephant baby boom at the Amboseli National park which recorded 140 new births including rare twin. This has been thanks to the great conservation efforts made by the government through the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife and the private sector.
The year has also been a learning experience for the sector especially in terms of destination marketing. The circumstances taught us the value of the digital space which played a key role in ensuring the destination remains alive in the mind of the travellers.
This year was also a year of success for Kenya’s tourism sector in terms of global and regional recognition. Kenya triumphed during this year’s World Travel Awards by scooping top awards which included Africa’s Leading Travel Destination and the World’s Leading Safari Destination, the latter which we have won for the seventh time in the past eight years.
In addition, our capital city, Nairobi was named Africa’s Leading Business Travel Destination with the iconic Kenyatta International Convention Centre winning the ‘Africa’s Leading Meetings Conference Centre’ accolade. Similarly, a number of facilities were also recognized such as Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club’s won the title of ‘Africa’s Leading Hotel’ with Aberdare Country Club being voted as ‘Africa’s Leading Green Hotel’ while Boabab beach resort won Africa’s Leading Family Resort. To top it up, our national carrier, Kenya Airways picked up both ‘Africa’s Leading Airline – Business Class’ and ‘Africa’s Leading Airline – Economy Class’.
During this year’s World Golf Awards, Kenya was also emerged as Africa’s Best Golf Destination which cements our position as the go-to destination when it comes to golf.
With the recent media reports on the development of COVID-19 vaccines, we look forward to the year 2021 with renewed hope.
To welcome visitors back to Rediscover the magical that is our destination.