Key stakeholders in the tourism and travel sectors in Kenya have agreed to collaborate in efforts to revive business in the industries, which are still struggling to recover from the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At a consultative forum convened Monday morning by the African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA), stakeholders including the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), Kenya Airways (KQ), the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) and the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) are committed to enhancing cooperation between government and private stakeholders in the sectors, promoting tourism and travel in the country and beyond .
The tourism and travel sectors have collapsed following the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 81% of companies in the industries laying off most of their employees and 31% implementing a pay cut of more than 70 %, reported the Department of Tourism and Wildlife in June 2020.
Kenya saw a 72% drop in tourist arrivals in 2020, compared to 2019, with international receipts falling from $1.9 billion to $531 million, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) .
“We cannot stress enough the role of synergies and partnerships as we work to restart tourism. We must continue to take advantage of new opportunities in
travel, and also be on the lookout for emerging trends,” said KTB CEO Dr. Betty Radier.
In a bid to rejuvenate the industry, KTB had partnered with Kenya Airways in November 2021 to promote local and international tours of Kenya by linking KQ aircraft to popular tourist destinations in the country. Consequently, tourist arrivals increased by 34% in 2021, but have not yet reached the figures recorded in 2019.
The new partnership, however, comes at a time when local and regional tourism is said to have improved following government campaigns to focus more on domestic and regional visitors after international arrivals failed.
As part of the government’s strategy to help the travel and tourism sectors recover from the hitch, the Ministry of Tourism has listed the promotion of domestic and regional tourism, alongside product development and diversification, and the digitization of tourism in the country in June 2020.
KTB’s partnership with KQ’s low-cost carrier subsidiary, Jambo Jet, has been instrumental in improving domestic and regional tourism, the stakeholders said in a statement.
ATTA, the organizer of the forum, which is an intermediary between buyers and suppliers of travel and tourism services across Africa, has members in 21 African countries, including Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, Kenya with 90 members.
Its operations have been almost completely paralyzed due to the pandemic, with several countries closing their borders and imposing restrictions on international travel.
The organization resumed its activities after 16 countries in Africa, including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, were awarded the Global Security Seal by the World Travel and Tourism Council, in recognition of the protocols of safe travel.
“Tourism and aviation are sectors that are symbiotic and need each other to fully thrive. We have come together to make sure we find solutions and a standard way of operating in terms of safety protocols and also come up with ideas that can propel travel to Kenya,” said ATTA President Nigel Vere Nicoll.
The ATTA has not been involved in any similar intervention in Uganda, Tanzania or Rwanda, where it also has a significant number of members, although their travel and tourism sectors have also been heavily affected by the pandemic.
Uganda’s travel and tourism sector is still struggling to recover from the descent of the pandemic, which saw tourist arrivals fall to around 473,000 in 2020 from an all-time high of 1.5 million in 2019, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.
Apart from the government strategy which is almost similar to that of Kenya, the only intervention was that of the Uganda Tourism Association, which partnered with the Mastercard Foundation and the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda to finance entities in the sector in order to recover from the impact of the pandemic.
Tanzania also saw a slight increase in tourist arrivals to 712,900 in 2021, after falling to 620,900 in 2020 from 1.5 million in 2019, according to records from the Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics.
The most significant intervention to help the sector recover to date is the $39 million granted to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in October 2021, which came from the $565 million emergency financial assistance loan. IMF dollars to Tanzania last year.