2018 has been a momentous year for Kenya’s tourism industry.

Total international arrivals by air and sea to Kenya between January and September 2018 grew by 7.6% to close at 777,791 up from 723,174 the same period in 2017.

87.7% of the visitors who toured Kenya during the first nine months of the year arrived through Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). Arrivals at JKIA closed at 682,446 up from 655,569 translating a growth of 4.1%.

Kenya’s coastal region saw a double-digit growth in international arrivals. Between January and September this year, Moi International Airport, Mombasa recorded 84,286 arrivals for the period, denoting a massive growth of 46% from 57,588 during the same period in 2017.

Cruise ship arrivals grew by 84.4% to top 1,671 compared to 906 in 2017.

Announcing the tourism performance figures, the Cabinet Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Hon. Najib Balala credited the growth to the successful implementation of measures to revitalise Kenya’s tourism sector over the last three years.

“Continued confidence in the destination, improved security, establishment of modern transport infrastructure such as the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway as well as the implementation of the Charter Incentive Programme at the Coast have greatly contributed to the continued growth in the performance of Kenya’s tourism sector, particularly at the Coast. Mombasa is currently receiving 15 charter flights every week, compared to 9 last year. We have also the entry of new airlines and resumption of flights by airlines such as Air France, which has further asserted Kenya as the preferred tourist destination.”, CS Balala said.

In terms of purpose of travel, holiday/leisure remains the main reason for travel into Kenya, taking a share of 74.8% of the total arrivals recorded during the first nine months of the year. In absolute numbers, holiday arrivals increased by 25% to record 581,993 compared to 468,407 in 2017.

Business and Conference contributed 12.9% of arrivals to record 100,499.

Visits to Friends and Relatives (VFR) contributed 6% of the arrivals in the period, closing at 42,294, while other purposes for travel such as sport, study, medical, transiting and voluntourism collectively contributed 6% of the total arrivals, closing at 41,006.

During the period under review, the United States of America remained Kenya’s number one tourism source market, with number of arrivals from the U.S. market growing by 6% to 95,234 arrivals up from 89,866 arrivals during the first nine months of 2017. The U.S. market contributed 12.2% of total international arrivals.

The Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary noted, “With the recent commencement of Kenya Airways’ direct flight between the U.S. and Kenya, Kenya will be repositioned as a more accessible destination for travelers from the U.S. and Europe. We anticipate that there will be a marked increase in the attractiveness of Kenya as a holiday destination due to Kenya being much closer to the US. Tourists will be able to spend more time on their holiday experience which enables Kenya to develop more diverse product and experiences. This will translate into a significant increase in tourism arrivals to Kenya.”

CS Balala added that American tourists are also known to be high spending and therefore and increase in their arrivals will significantly increase tourism earnings for Kenya.

The United Kingdom came second, having grown by 4.5% to 82,509 – accounting for 10.6% of arrivals. Uganda came in third with 56,727 arrivals, contributing 7.3% of arrivals. It was followed by China which grew by 6.8% to 47,972 arrivals which translates to 6.2%. India stood at the fifth position with 40,573 arrivals, which is 5.2% of the international arrivals between January and September 2018. Also among the list of the top 10 source markets for Kenya is Italy, Germany, South Africa, France and Tanzania.

The government projects a 17 to 18 percent growth in visitor numbers over the next one year.

The entry of new hotels and more flights into Kenya, coupled by stronger economic growth, lower inflation and most importantly, enhanced security is expected to contribute to growth in visitor numbers.