Despite a 0.7% drop in tourists during the first half of the year, Kenya is expecting to grow tourist numbers by 10% compared with last year and reach 2.2 million by the end of 2019, says Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, Najib Balala.

The number of international visitors in the first half of this year was 921 090, a 0.7% drop compared with 927 797 in the same period last year. Arrivals from Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, India and South Africa dropped in the first half, partly due to the January 15 Dusit D2 terrorist attack.

On August 14, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office lifted its travel advisory for key areas in Kenya, only retaining its advice against travel to sections of the coast, from the Somali border to near Malindi, with the exception of Lamu Town and Manda Island.

Meru, Nanyuki, Naivasha and Narok, home to some of Kenya’s main tourist attractions, are now no longer part of the areas where ‘particular vigilance’ is required concerning the potential for terror attacks. 

The areas that the FCO advises against do not include safari destinations in the national parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies nor do they include the beach resorts of Mombasa, Malindi, Kilifi, Watamu, Diani, Lamu Island and Manda Island, or Mombasa, Malindi and Manda airports.

Balala’s projection is based on a strong performance by the US market, which grew by 9.4% in the first half of the year to close at 110 668 compared with 101 167 in the same period last year. Other well performing markets include France, China and Uganda.

“The American market is still growing. That is our key market. We are also putting emphasis in the Chinese market where have a strategy for the market,” Balala said during the launch of the Kenya Tourism Satellite Account on August 13. “Strong performance from the US is an indication that, among other factors, the direct flight to New York is having a substantial positive impact on tourism.”

Balala's 10% projection places this year's expected arrivals at 2.2 million, up from 2 025 206 in 2018, the highest ever number of arrivals in the country's tourism history.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all but essential travel to:

  • Areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border
  • Garissa County
  • Lamu County (excluding Lamu Island and Manda Island)
  • Areas of Tana River County north of the Tana River
  • Within 15km of the coast from the Tana River down to the Galana (Athi-Galana-Sabaki) River

The FCO further said that tourists travelling to Lamu Island or Manda Island, should do so by air to Manda airport and not by road.