Tourism has always been looked at as a vehicle for economic growth and job creation all over the world. The tourism sector is directly or indirectly responsible for about 8.8% of the worlds jobs. The world travel council estimates that 3.8 million jobs could be created by the tourism industry in Sub Saharan Africa over the next 10 years. Kenya’s economy grew by 5.8 percent in 2016 the highest in five years supported by a significant increase in tourism earnings and the ever-growing construction sector which also has an indirect contribution to the economy since there are in the region of 20-30 projects in just hospitality in Nairobi alone that are under development. Data from the Economic Survey 2017 showed a turnaround in the tourism sector, which grew 13.3 % after contracting 1.3% the previous year.
The hospitality industry is on a trajectory in Kenya. You only have to look around you and see the massive development of Hotels and Serviced apartment hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and other eateries have taken our capital city and changed the dynamics of how we are positioned in the market place. Nairobi today for both, the hotel scene and the food scene can hold its own as a world class city. New investments keep coming up and being established by both local and foreign investors in and out of the city. More than 10 Hotel chains have already opened in Nairobi during the last year. These new properties, will add 2400 guest rooms while expanding Kenya’s hotel capacity by 13% and exceeding last year’s expectations.
The Tourism board under the leadership of Hon Najib Balala is doing a tremendous job of promoting Kenya as a destination for Golf tourism, sandy beaches, MICE location and of course the famous Wildlife experience in the Masai Mara. We are definitely on the map as a preferred destination. Although PWC forecasted increased investment activity in the country, it also predicted that occupancy will drop over the next two years before rising again in 2019 from guestroom oversupply. In 2021, Kenya hotels are forecasted to gain a total of 4.4 million guest nights, a 4.1% compound annual increase from 3.6 million in 2016.
It is refreshing to see the efforts that all stakeholders are putting to promoting domestic tourism in the past few years. We have a growing middle class and we also have some amazing tourist sites all over the country that are a must visit. The landscape and the scenery are breath-taking. Kenyans are increasingly travelling local and the Devolution has opened counties for investment and local travel. Counties are also aggressively marketing their sites and wooing local travellers to their region.
There are amazing facilities in the county, I am not being biased but look at the Acacia Premier in Kisumu, the facility has set standards and raised the bar in the whole of the Western Region. There are also other players in the region. I come from Kisumu and I can confidently say that Kisumu is on the map now as one of the best destinations in Kenya. Recently the devolution conference was held in Kakamega and we know that the preferred choice for stay for most of the attendees was The Acacia Premier in Kisumu. The message here is that the counties are ready for nice and professionally run Hotels.
There are a number of factors that have played a key role in improving the hospitality and tourism industry; the road network in the country has opened different areas, the SGR which has made our trips to the coast shorter and stress free, an increase in flights to Kenya and lower park fees . With all these and a stabilizing economy and political climate the hospitality sector is set for a boom.
Efforts by the Ministry of Tourism and the Kenya Tourism Board cannot go unnoticed, the ministry recently set up a task force that is reviewing Kenya Tourism Strategy and to develop a marketing strategy for convention tourism in Kenya. I think this is a huge opportunity for the country and a world class convention centre would certainly help.
Recently we have read about the increase in poaching of our wildlife. This makes me very sad and this problem must be taken seriously and addressed.
If all stake holders are included and all focussed on the agenda, tourism and hospitality is set to become a key income generator for Kenya.