Air transport, key to the growth of tourism in Kenya


Tourism is one of the main sources of income for many of the world’s developing countries and for Kenya, one of Africa’s leading tourism destinations, it is the country’s second-largest source of foreign exchange.

In 2016, tourism contributed over Sh100 billion in foreign exchange income, a 17.8% growth over 2015. The sector contributed over 13.5% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), directly supporting an estimated 250,000 jobs and an additional 350,000 indirectly.

International visitor arrivals grew from 752,000 in 2015 to 877,600 in 2016, a 16.7% growth and in the first four months of 2017 they grew to 292,100 from 264,700 in 2016, a 10.3% growth.

Presently, Kenya is serviced from the key long-haul source markets by five international full-service airlines flying directly from their hub to Nairobi. The country’s national carrier, Kenya Airways (KQ) services directly seven long-haul international source markets, along with a handful of European charter carriers that fly directly into Mombasa.

In comparison, South Africa (SA), which is also a long-haul tourism destination, is serviced by 16 international full-service airlines that fly directly to the country from their respective hubs. Their national carrier, South African Airways (SAA), services directly nine long-haul international tourism source markets. In 2016, SA reported having received 2.5 million international visitors.

Therefore, air transport is a key component in the tourism industry and in particular for a long-haul destination like Kenya.

In 2016, the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) appointed an international consultancy firm to work on the development of air transport growth strategy for Kenya that resulted in visitor arrivals growing significantly between 2015 and 2016, although there is an opportunity for more growth from all markets, including Africa.

Long-haul flights are important for visitor arrival numbers, as witnessed in South Africa, which is why the country is looking forward to the introduction of direct flights between Kenya and USA.