US overtakes the UK in Kenyan tourism numbers

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA)
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). Photo: Li Yong

Based on data from the first 10 months of 2016, the United States has overtaken the United Kingdom as the top source market for Kenya.

The UK has been Kenya’s leading market for many years, but according to statistics released by the Kenya Tourism Board, 82,363 American tourists visited the country between January and October, surpassing the 80,821 British arrivals.

The data shows a 16% increase in American tourists, up from 70 734 arrivals in the same period last year.

However, arrivals from the UK in the period dropped 4%, down from 84,423 in 2015.

India was ranked as third-largest market for Kenya, with arrivals up 33% at 54,983, increasing from 41,257. Uganda was fourth, with arrivals increasing by 85% to 45,116 from 24 420.

China was placed fifth with arrivals of 41,459 visitors (up from 25,299), Germany sixth with 36,066 arrivals (up from 30,806) while South Africa was seventh with 28,720 tourists (up from 25,819).

Italy (27,933), France (17,303) and the United Arab Emirates (17,180) made up the rest of the top 10 markets.

Mara Engai Wilderness Lodge picnic
A bush picnic at the Mara Engai Wilderness Lodge

Encouragingly, international tourist arrivals to Kenya increased by 16% to 729,682 compared with 628,345 arrivals the previous year.

International arrivals at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport grew by 15% to 653 187, up from 569 815 the same period in 2015. Moi International Airport, Mombasa, saw international arrivals grow by 26% to 74,615 (up from 59 194 the previous year).

During the period under review, there were only 1,880 arrivals by cruise ships, but this will hopefully increase once the new cruise terminal is operational.

Cruise terminal Mombasa launch
Najib Balala at the launch of the state-of-the-art cruise ship terminal at the Port of Mombasa. Photo: Twitter/tunajibu

Of the 729,682 arrivals, 75% came on holiday, while 13% visited the country for business and conferences.

The growth in international tourist arrivals has been attributed to the security improvement across the country.

In December last year, Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala, said he was impressed by the increase of tourists from the US market visiting Kenya, adding that international tourist arrivals to Kenya grew by 16% in the period under review, bringing hope to tourism recovery. He also expressed hope that the industry would perform better, bolstered by the surge in arrivals from the US, India, Uganda and China markets.