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Tourism Sector Profile of Kenya

Tourism Sector Profile of Kenya

Tourism Sector Profile of Kenya

The sector contributes about 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs about 9 percent of the total wage workforce in the country and has high multiplier effects as its growth stimulates further development in other sectors of the economy. Tourism is therefore making a major contribution to the country’s transformation and economic development. The sector also plays an important role by attracting visitors to Kenya to enjoy Kenya’s diverse tourism and cultural potential. The country is also Africa’s original safari destination that has attracted explorers, adventurers and travellers for years.  In recognition of the importance of tourism, the Government has undertaken several initiatives aimed at stimulating the tourism sector and creating an enabling environment for investment in tourism sector.

Achievement in the sector

The achievements include the following;

  • Increased bed-nights by Kenyans or domestic tourism;
  • Increased conference activity;
  • Operationalization of the Tourism Regulatory Authority;
  • Classifying and rating 122 hotels and restaurants and
  • Assessment of 54 pre-qualified tourism establishments in Nyanza, Western and North Rift regions and classification of 25 establishments (1-4 star rating).

Tourism arrivals for the year 2016

Port of entry

Airport 2016 2015
Mombasa 92,872 75,983
JKA 782,013 671,789

Tourist Arrivals in 2016 by country

2016 2015
USA 97,883 84,883
UK 96,404 98,400
India 64,116 49,756
Uganda 51, 023 29,038
China 47,860 29,790
Germany 43,502 38,236
Italy 35,953 33,415
South Africa 35,926 30,500


Future focus of Government

The government of Kenya working in partnership with key stakeholders will focus on the following;

  • Increasing tourism earnings, international and domestic tourist arrivals, and conference tourism;
  • Developing and diversifying niche tourism products;
  • Facilitating concessional loans to tourism and tourism related facilities and
  • Completing the construction of Ronald Ngala Utalii College.

Regulatory Framework

Ministry of Tourism      

The Department of Tourism has a mandate for provision of clear direction and leadership in the tourism policy and development in the country by Executive Order No.2 of 2013. Therefore the Department plays the role of overseeing and coordinating all inclusive processes of policy direction, planning, product development and diversification.

The functions of the Department are;-

  • Planning and Policy-making; Overall tourism policy formulation, implementation, monitoring and review in collaboration with stakeholders.
  • Overall co-ordination; Liaise and coordinate with international, regional and local institutions on tourism issues.
  • Resource mobilization: Internal external resource mobilization in consultation with the Treasury for the development of tourism;
  • Facilitation: Establishment of an enabling legal and regulatory framework, promotion of local and foreign investments, safety and security of tourists, and conservation of biodiversity.
  • Product development and diversification: Development of viable tourism products and promotion of community participation in tourism.
  • Capacity development: Coordinating capacity development and setting of standards in the hospitality industry.
  • Research and development: Undertake and coordinate research in the sector.

The Department is responsible for overall guidance and policy coordination for all State Corporations under its jurisdiction. The Department of Tourism is the Principal advisor to the Cabinet Secretary and Principal Secretary on tourism matters.

Ministry of Environment, Water & Natural resources     

The Ministry of Tourism is now under Ministry of Environment, Water & Natural resources. It is responsible for the formulation, co-ordination and administration of policy in respect to the tourism sector. Its mission is to facilitate sustainable tourism for national development and posterity.

Government Agencies under Department of Tourism

Kenya Tourist Board (KTB)

The Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) is responsible for independently marketing the tourism sector. The prime objective of the KTB is to market Kenya as a tourist destination both locally and internationally.

Catering and Tourist Development Levy Trustees (CTDLT)

Tourism Businesses in Kenya pay a Catering and Tourism Development Levy which funds are utilized by CTDLT for development and sponsorship of marketing through Kenya Tourist Board, training through Kenya Utaali College and development of standards.

Kenya Utalii College

Utalii College is a recognized centre of excellence for Tourism Training, offering a wide range of training and courses in all areas of tourism, including safari guiding, hotel management, catering and hospitality. The College earned recognition by the World Tourism Organisation as one of the world’s 16 Centres of Professional Excellence. The East African Community has also designated Kenya Utalii College as one of its three Centres of Excellence in tourism training.

Kenya Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC)

KTDC is responsible for development and indigenisation of tourism facilities through; direct investment in tourism, improvement and/or expansion of new or existing tourist facilities and indigenisation of ownership of tourism facilities in the industry.

Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC)

The Kenyatta International Conference Centre is located in the heart of Nairobi and within a walking distance of several five star hotels. This makes KICC the perfect venue for conferences, meetings, exhibitions and special events. KICC has hosted many successful international conferences and seminars.

Bomas of Kenya

Bomas of Kenya is a tourist village and conference centre in Langata, Nairobi. Bomas (homesteads) displays traditional villages belonging to the several Kenyan tribes.

It preserves, maintains and promotes rich and diverse cultural values of various tribal groups of Kenya. The complex also contains the biggest theatre in Africa with 3,500 seats. There are traditional dances from a variety of tribes performed at the venue on daily basis. The venue can also be utilized as a conference facility.

Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS)

KWS is responsible for the conservation and management of wildlife resources.

Accommodation facilities

Kenya has close to 500 licensed hotels of international standards to choose from. Kenya hotels present the most diverse range of accommodation to suit every taste. They range from the small town hotels to the five star town and beach hotels. There are numerous lodges across the country too. The game lodges are luxurious and are situated in rural surroundings that are symbolic of Kenya’s scenic splendor. Smaller or budget hotels and beach villas offer comfortable accommodation and good service at very reasonable rates.

People and culture

There are more than 40 different ethnic groups in Kenya each with its own unique dialect. Kenya culture is a fascinating way of life that blends the traditions of thousands of years of African social evolution with the modern influences of the 20th century. The multifaceted culture of Kenya is expressed in different forms, ranging from its people and language, food, music and dance, art, artifacts, theatre and literature to its ethnic values and ethical norms. As Kenya’s official languages, Swahili and English bridge the communication gap and unite Kenyans as a single nation.

Challenges facing the tourism sector

  • Inadequate resources for investment into the sector
  • Deaths and injury caused by wildlife across the country
  • Security threats notably the Al-shabab. However the government has done much to curb the situation which is now stable;
  • High poaching incidents;
  • Human-wildlife conflict;
  • Competition from the rest of the world;
  • Lack of capacity to sustainable manage tourism;
  • Limited resources for marketing Kenya tourism and
  • Low domestic tourism.

The information under the sector is organized as follows;