Revenue from the industry increased to Ksh120 billion ($1.19bn) despite last year’s prolonged electioneering period, up from Ksh100 billion ($1bn) in 2016, a 20% increase.
This was despite some cancellations by potential visitors from key source markets in the second half of 2017 following the nullification of the August 8 presidential election by the Supreme Court that also ordered a repeat poll by the end of October.
International tourist arrivals to Kenya grew by 9.8% to 1.47 million during the period under review compared with 1.34 million visitors in 2016.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala, said the tourism growth was a demonstration that tourist source markets had confidence in Kenya. "In previous years, tourist numbers had gone down due to insecurity, but the Government has invested heavily in security, which has restored confidence in the tourist source markets.”
While earnings reached a record high, arrivals are yet to achieve a full recovery when compared with the best-performing year of 2011, when more than 1.8 million tourists visited the country.
In 2014, the industry faced a setback following a series of terrorist attacks, resulting in a decline in visitor numbers as well as earnings.
“We expect 2018 to be the best year for the industry as a result of peace and stability in the country,” he said.
The US was the top market for Kenya in 2017 after arrivals grew 17% to 114 507, up from 97 883 visitors in 2016. The UK came second with 107 000 tourist arrivals while Uganda was third with 61 500 visitors.
It is expected that the direct flights to the US will increase the number of American tourists to Kenya as well as boost trade between the two countries.
Kenya Airways is scheduled to start flying to the US in October. The airline started selling tickets for the new route last month.
The majority of the international tourists who visit Kenya come from the UK, the US, Germany, France and Italy.
In recent years, Kenya has seen a rise in visitor numbers from the emerging markets of China, India, Poland, Czech Republic and Russia.