A visit by US President Barack Obama and Pope John last year failed to jumpstart the number of tourists choosing Kenya as a destination and they are likely to remain subdued in coming months as effect of terrorist attacks in the East African nation continue to hurt the industry.
Kenya’s Tourism Minister, Najib Balala, told Reuters the country, which posted a decrease in visitors in 2015 despite Obama’s ‘homecoming’ in July and Pope’s pass-over in October, will continue to struggle for the foreseeable future with recovery estimated to be earliest in 2018.
Tourism is a leading foreign exchange earner for the East Africa’s largest economy.
According to data released by the Ministry of Tourism, the country received 748,771 tourists in 2015, which was a 13 percent drop from the 861,396 that it received in 2014. It however didn’t say how much revenue was raised from these visits.
The country’s tourism earnings have been on a steady decline of about two percent each year since 2011, when it hit a record high of $1.1 billion, Oxford Business Group reported.
In 2014, earnings were $958 million, an 11 percent drop from the total earnings in 2011.
The drastic fall in foreign tourists has been attributed to the travel advisories issued by the US, Britain, France and France, who form the biggest chunk of tourists to Kenya.
The US and Britain accounts for more than two-third of the international tourists visiting the country each year.
Obama’s and the Pope’s visit last year were expected to show that Kenya was a safe destination following several attacks by Al Qaeda-linked Somalia-based Al Shabaab Islamic militants since 2011.
Terrorism is the major threat to tourism in Kenya but there are also infrastructural issues that impeded its growth.
“Access to our tourism facilities such as Masai Mara Game Reserve and Diani for example have become headache to tourists owing poor road leading to Sekenani gate and access through Likoni ferry respectively,” Balala said.