Conference tourism drives back dollars to Nairobi

Rise in conference tourism and high flying events are helping Kenya recover from the slump in tourism even as players’ caution the government’s push to double park fees. The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) data shows that the sector booked Kes152.6 billion in the six months to June, up from Kes116.2 billion in 2022.

The earnings improved as visitor arrivals grew to 847,810 from 642,861 arrivals in a similar period in 2022, representing a 32 percent increase. But even as tourist numbers increase, sector players are raising an alarm over the doubling of park fees saying Kenya is pricing itself out of the market.

Kenya has doubled park fees which for instance have pushed the cost to access the Mara from $100 to $200. This will make Kenya more expensive as compared to close rivals Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia and Namibia who provide similar offering at much cheaper costs.

Tanzania’s charges are currently the $100 a day mark while South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia range between $20 to $30 a day. Tourism sector players say Kenya needs to maintain competitiveness to help the industry that has taken a beating since Covid-19 to recover.

The pandemic, followed by political temperatures of an election year, persistent cost of living riots and rising inflation in the developed market have dampened prospects over the last couple of years.

Despite that visitors seem to shrug off the concerns rising tourism numbers signals travellers are ignoring the noise meaning a slow return to normalcy in the sector that has suffered multiple shocks over the last few years.

Read also: Saudi Arabia overtakes UK as Kenya’s second leading dollar source

New chains of international hotels

Nairobi’s impressive infrastructure development, new chains of international hotels and wild game offering has made it attractive for international businesses seeking to host global events with a continental and regional focus.

Recent events like UN Habitat conference, WRC Safari Rally and Mice conferences bring along the global elite looking for a locale with a reasonable level of English fluency, an attractive year-round climate and a growth rate of about 5.5 percent.

Nairobi has also become a geopolitical focal point hosting the tens of heads of states and multilateral lenders visiting Kenya for its strategic geographical location on the Indian Ocean bearing on outcomes of any confrontation between energy insecure China and the fledging American empire.

Known as the ‘Green city in the sun’ Nairobi is popular for its landscape and filming where movies such as Out of Africa and The Constant Gardener were filmed.

“The name “Nairobi” comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nyirobi, which means “the place of cool waters”.

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