The number of tourists visiting Kenya in the first nine months of this year rose 16 per cent to 1.04 million, as compared with the same period a year ago, Tourism Minister Najib Balala has said.
The minister also said that the estimated tourism receipts for the period ending October closed at Sh81.96 billion as compared to Sh56.72 billion during a similar period last year, an increase of 44.4 per cent over last year.
“The year 2011 is expected to be the best year in tourism. Total arrivals for January to October by air and sea closed at 1,039,852 compared to 896,228 in the same period last year,” he said.
The minister attributed improved tourist arrivals to ongoing efforts to diversify tourism markets and partly to depreciation of the shilling against the dollar, which made Kenya destination more affordable.
He, however, said Europe remained the main regional source market during the quarter with a market share of 47 per cent.
The United Kingdom maintained the top position in the market share terms, with 15.8 per cent of all inbound arrivals by air and sea followed in the third position by Italy at 7.5 per cent.
“The United States was second in terms of tourism arrivals at 9.6 per cent followed in fourth position by Germany at 5.5 per cent and India at 4.7 per cent,” Balala said at a news conference on Friday.
The minister who was presenting tourism performance in terms of international arrivals January-October at his office in Nairobi, said India replaced France to become one of the top five markets in June.
Regionally, Uganda has maintained its lead in the arrivals from Africa, recording 36,030 inbound visitors, 36.5 percent growth compared to the same period last year.
Following closely was South Africa that recorded 31,355 arrivals, a 13.5 per cent growth compared to the same period last year.
Tanzania came in third place, with 28,435 arrivals, a 11.3 per cent growth.
Balala said he expects tourist numbers to reach 1.3 million by end of this year.
Kenya had targeted 1.8 million tourists this year. Last year, a record 1.1 million tourists visited the country beating the previous high hit in 2007.
The news could be a big relief to the country that has suffered decreased arrivals especially after post-election violence and the global financial crisis.