NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenya’s tourist arrivals are expected to drop in 2017 due to the prolonged
electioneering period caused by nullification of the Aug. 8 polls, a senior
official said late Wednesday.
Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of
Tourism Najib Balala told journalists that between January and August tourist
arrivals jumped by 10 percent over last year’s figures.
"However, we project that overall tourism arrivals for 2017 will decline as
bookings have dropped for the second half of the year due to the ongoing
political uncertainty," Balala said during the 12 Eco Tourism Awards ceremony
that seeks to celebrate the tourism industry’s achievements.
In 2016, the East African nation recorded 1.3 million international arrivals
against 1.18 million received in 2015.
Balala said improved infrastructure such as airport expansion and the
Standard Gauge Railway is expected to boost tourist arrivals in the country as
well as promote efficiency.
While there have been tougher times for the sector since 2008, he said,
various measures put in place to revive the tourism sector are bearing fruits.
He noted that immediately after the annulment of the presidential results of
the Aug. 8 polls by the Supreme Court, overseas tourists become cautious about
travel to Kenya.
"The ongoing political impasse is affecting Kenya’s image abroad and could
affect tourist arrivals up to June 2018," he added.
Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) chairman Jimi Kariuki said that Kenya is increasing
its focus on attracting more Chinese tourists due to its huge potential.
"Chinese tourists are emerging as a key pillar of our tourism sector because
they have been growing by double digital for the past few years," he said.
According to KTB, approximately 35,000 tourists from the Asian nation visited
Kenya in 2016.
"Despite the going political uncertainty we expect Chinese tourist arrivals
to increase this year," he said, adding that most Chinese tourists come to visit
wildlife parks especially the Masai Mara.
"We are now developing adventure and golf tourism products in order to lure
more Chinese tourists into the country," he said.
KTB said the key barrier to the growth of Chinese tourist is the language and
cultural barriers that exist between the two nations.
"But with growing trade and commercial ties, we hope to overcome the
challenge so that China becomes the leading source market for foreign tourists
in Kenya," the chairman said.