According to the 2022 Kenya Annual Tourism Sector Performance Report by the Tourism Research Institute, Kenya experienced a remarkable surge in international visitors. The report revealed an astounding 70.45% surge from 2021’s 870,465, with an impressive 1.48 million international visitors arriving in Kenya. This substantial growth comes in the wake of the recent COVID-19 pandemic and signifies a rise in Kenya’s appeal as a global tourist destination.
While still below the 2019 figures when the industry was at its peak, it nevertheless represents a healthy 72% recovery rate. The report sheds some interesting insights into the main reasons international visitors come to Kenya. While most are your typical reason to travel abroad, a few will surprise you.
This came as a great surprise. One rarely thinks of Kenya as a medical tourism destination. Instead, destinations like Canada, Singapore, Japan, Dubai, the UK and India come to mind first for this type of travel. In a report by Grand View Research published in 2020, the global medical tourism market was valued at approximately USD 44.8 billion in 2019. The market was expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.1% from 2020 to 2027. Surprisingly, about 11,354 international visitors came to Kenya in 2022 for medical reasons. Although representing only 0.77% of the total international arrivals, it nevertheless alluded to a new growing exploitable travel niche.
Making up 0.22% of international visitors last year, sports was another surprise driver of inbound traffic. While Kenya has established itself as a powerhouse in the world of sports, showcasing remarkable prowess across various disciplines, few international sporting events take place in the country. Yet over 3,900 international visitors came to Kenya last year. Imagine what would happen if they completed all the county stadia and we bid and hosted more sporting events! But what are the odds the 2022 WRC Safari Rally single-handedly contributed to this traffic? This one event injected an amazing USD 42.6 million into the economy last year. Did you get a chance to catch the action at this year’s event? Other potential traffic-pulling events may have been the Magical Kenya Ladies Open and the East African Safari Rally Classic.
While Kenya may not host numerous large-scale religious events apart from the popular Lamu Maulidi Festival. Last year’s event drew a substantial crowd of over 7,000 international visitors from Oman, the Comoro Islands, Tanzania, and Uganda for religious purposes. Despite the limited number of major religious events, Kenya welcomed over 12,600 international visitors, comprising 0.85% of the total arrivals last year. This indicates that Kenya holds an allure for religious travellers seeking spiritual experiences and highlights the country’s potential to further develop its religious tourism sector.
Kenya’s education system seems to be striking the right chords with foreign nationals as evidenced by the growing number of international visitors choosing the country for educational purposes. With a 1.4% share, amounting to 21,354 visitors, Kenya is emerging as a promising destination for educational tourism. This trend underscores the potential and golden opportunity that awaits in further developing and capitalising on the educational tourism sector. By leveraging the strengths of its education system, Kenya can attract even more international visitors seeking enriching educational experiences, contributing to the growth and diversification of its tourism industry.
In the past year, Kenya served as a transit hub for a substantial number of international travellers, with about 74,355 visitors passing through the country on their way to other destinations. This accounts for 5.01% of the total inbound traffic, highlighting Kenya’s significance as a key connecting point. That right there presents a potential market for our transit visa. With a Kenya transit visa, international tourists can extend their stay for up to 72 hours. They can then get a taste of Magical Kenya during their brief layover. Moreover, with the convenience of the longer Kenya Tourist eVisa, transit visitors for up to 90 days, offering an exciting opportunity to explore more of what Kenya has to offer before continuing their journey to their final destination.
Business and MICE
While the performance of MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) in Kenya has experienced a decline in recent years, the country’s strategic positioning continues to hold promise. In the past year, 404,183 visitors, accounting for 27.24% of inbound traffic, arrived in Kenya for MICE-related purposes. Among them, approximately 18,658 international delegates attended 248 international conferences hosted in the country. Although these figures fall short of the 2019 numbers of 72,001 delegates, they indicate an encouraging upward recovery trend in the MICE sector. This signals the resilience of Kenya’s MICE industry and suggests positive prospects for its revival and growth in the near future.
Visiting Family or Friends
Can you imagine about 413,180 international visitors, in 2022, entered the country to visit family or friends? They made up 27.85% of international arrivals that year. The African market which accounted for 43.2% of the total arrivals shows great prospects. Most visitors from the continent either travelled for business or came to visit friends and family.
Last year, Kenya attracted over half a million international holidaymakers accounting for 36.63% of the total inbound traffic. This figure underscores the country’s allure as a sought-after holiday destination. Kenya’s diverse natural landscapes, including breathtaking national parks, stunning coastlines, and vibrant cities, continue to offer an array of experiences for tourists seeking relaxation, adventure, and cultural immersion.