Kenya will host around 3,000 travel agents from the U.S. next February as it plans to attract more guests with the construction of Sh350 million cruise terminal in Mombasa.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said the United States has overtaken the UK as country’s top source market. The conference is being organised by the American Society of Travel Agents and the Kenyan government, Balala said.
International arrivals by air and sea between January and October stood at 729,682, a 16.1 per cent growth from 628,345 in the same period in 2015, according to data from the Kenya Tourism Board.
“It is surprising that our traditional source market, the UK, has been overtaken by the American market. American market has grown by 16.4 per cent, whereas the UK has declined by four per cent,” he said.
The number of tourists from India, Balala said, has also increased to about 55,000 between January and October, while Ugandan guests at about 45,000 were fourth largest in size.
Tourists from South Africa were about 28,000, while a significant number of Nigerians was also recorded, he added.
China is ranked fifth largest source market followed by Germany.
“Tourists from Uganda increased by over 85 per cent compared to last year,” the CS said.
“We need to work hard to ensure we tap into this African market even if it means abolishing visas for all African nations.”
Balala spoke when he commissioned the construction of the Cruise Ship Terminal at the Port of Mombasa.
The Kenya Ports Authority will inject Sh250 million into the project after years of lobbying by stakeholders in the tourism sector, with the remainder Sh100 million coming from Trade Mark East Africa.
About 1,880 tourists in the year to October arrived through cruise ships. Two cruise ships called at the port last week. They were MV Nautica with 591 tourists and 400 crew members on board, and MS Silver Cloud which docked on Tuesday last week with 216 tourists and 222 crew members.
Balala said he expects the tourism sector to recover fully in 2018 from a five-year battering from security threats linked to Somali-based militia, the al Shabaab. The sector got Sh5.2 billion under the 2014-15 budget for recovery programmes through KTB, the marketing agency.
“Currently we are operating on an average of 90 per cent bed occupancy in many hotels in the region. Domestic tourism, however, takes a bigger percentage,” Kenya Coast Tourist Association chairperson Mohammed Hersi said.