Tourism sector is under increasing pressure to look for new sources of visitors as numbers from the traditional markets continue to dip.
Statistics for the 2012/2013 tourism performance released on Thursday showed an overall drop in numbers by nine per cent to 1.2 million from 1.3 million last year.
Earnings from the sector, that contributes 11 per cent to the GDP, reduced by seven per cent to Sh96 billion, down from Sh104 billion the previous year.
The urgency for new sources is informed by data showing an increase in budget tourists visiting the country from Europe, a key source market for Kenya.
According to Tourism Concern, a UK-based campaign organisation, the rapid expansion of “all-inclusive” hotel deals in Kenya is damaging the tourism industry and forcing workers to accept low pay.
All-inclusive hotel deals entail a fixed price paid by tourists for all their food, transport, drinks and entertainment at the hotels.
Tourism Concern’s report noted that a World Bank survey on the tourism industry in Mombasa, said that all-inclusive beach holidays “contributed the least economic benefit” to the local community.
Yet in Kenya 87 per cent of tourists go on all-inclusive holidays.
“The results (of the increasing number of all-inclusive hotel deals) include failure to recognise workers’ rights to join a trade union, lack of training for staff, being pressurized into working a considerable amount of unpaid overtime, and not earning a living wage,” Tourism Concern said.
“Other local businesses such as restaurants, shops, taxi services and small guest houses, all lose out to the all-inclusive model, as guests are deterred from leaving the hotel grounds.
In some destinations, countless businesses have been forced to close.”
The annual tourism report released by Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Phyllis Kandie shows United Kingdom recorded the highest decline of 18 per cent to register 171,000 arrivals, down from 208,000 recorded in the last financial year.
Arrivals from Italy dropped to 82,000 from 91,000.
Arrivals from the United States and Germany also declined by four per cent as Zanzibar continues to be an increasing threat to the coast of Kenya as a tourist destination.
“Decline may be attributed to the Eurozone crisis and delayed bookings due to uncertainty over the date and outcome of the ( March 4) general election,” Ms Kandie noted.
However numbers from regional and emerging markets have grown significantly.
Regionally, Uganda’s growth was the highest with 44 per cent. However, arrivals from South Africa and Tanzania declined by four and 17 per cent respectively.
Tourist numbers from the United Arab Emirates shot to 53 per cent on account of established routes by key airlines such as the Kenya Airways, Etihad and Emirates.
Arrivals from India, another emerging market, posted a 10 per cent upsurge to 66,000 tourists with direct flights by the national carrier Kenya Airways contributing to this growth.
“Despite being long haul destinations from Kenya, China and Austria both recorded a 4 per cent increase compared to 2011/2013,” said Ms Kandie.
The first half of 2013 also saw a 12 per cent drop in overall tourist arrivals in the country, closing at 496,000 down from 564,000 in the same period last year.
Mrs Kandie reiterated her ministry’s projection of attaining a combined total of 2 million local, international and regional tourists by 2014.
“We are deliberately investing more in the emerging markets, middle east and domestic tourism,” said Mrs Kandie