Kenya's tourism earnings surge in 2022 as travel curbs ease - REUTERS
NAIROBI, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Kenya's tourism industry, one of the East African nation's top sources of hard currency, surged 83% in 2022 to 268 billion shillings ($2.13 billion) as COVID curbs eased, the government said on Wednesday.
Visitors rebounded to 72% of their pre-pandemic level in 2019, Tourism Minister Peninah Malonza told reporters, outpacing the rest of the continent which stands at 65% of the pre-pandemic level.
Kenya offers beach holidays along its Indian Ocean coastline and wildlife safaris inland. The Unites States was the main source of visitors during the year, Malonza said, followed by Uganda, Britain and Tanzania.
China, which had been a growing source market before the pandemic struck, started to ease travel restrictions this year.
Kenyan authorities will focus their marketing efforts on emerging markets like Rwanda, Nigeria and Ethiopia, Malonza said.
Tourism earnings are projected to rise to 425 billion shillings ($3.37 billion) this year, said David Gitonga, chief executive of the state Tourism Research Institute, before increasing to 540 billion shillings in 2027.
But the sector is also facing serious challenges, said Kareke Mbiuki, chairman of parliament's tourism and wildlife committee, citing cuts for infrastructure required by the sector, part of a broader austerity drive by the government.
The country is also facing a severe drought, Malonza said.
Hilton (HLT.N) closed its 50-year-old hotel in downtown Nairobi at the start of this year, in a further sign of the problems facing the sector that contributes a tenth of Kenya's annual economic output.
Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Nick Macfie