The outbreak of COVID-19 has presented the tourism & hospitality industry with unprecedented challenges.
Across the country, hundreds of businesses remain closed. SME’s make a large majority of the industry. Hotels, restaurants and tour operators are out of business and the thousands of people employed both directly or indirectly by the industry have had their livelihood affected.
According to the KNBS ECONOMIC SURVEY 2020. Earnings in the industry were up 3.9% and travel and tourism continues to be a significant contributor to Kenya’s GDP. There was very slight growth in the international arrivals at 0.4 % . This was as result in improved political stability,improved infrastructure among other factors. However there was a decline in arrivals from Europe which was previously the largest single source of inbound visitors. So what was the main contributor to growth in earnings ?
Could we be ignoring the very thing that could save us? The importance of domestic tourism is enormous to Kenya’s economy but is generally overlooked.
The latest statistics by the KNBS show that:
- 53% of hotel bed night occupancy is by Kenyan residents, this grew 5.7% in 2019.
- There was also 24.2% increase in hotel bed nights by EAC residents.
- Kenyans also constitute the largest number to national parks and game reserves
- Local conferencing grew by 14.4%
Domestic tourism has the ability to stabilize the frequent flows of inbound tourism. By encouraging domestic tourism during the traditional off peak period, hotels and related businesses are able to stay open and profitable. Many businesses in the coast for example,stay closed during the off peak season as they have very low patronage. By promoting domestic tourism, these establishments are able to stay open year round. Conversely the people employed by the industry from hotel workers, waiters, fishermen and mama mbogas who depend on the industry also have a regular source of income.
According to the WTTC , 7 out of 10 dollars spent on tourism are spent domestically. This contributes to the industries resiliency and sustainability. In times of crisis such as this, domestic tourism can act as a shock absorber when international tourists are unable to travel, when they stay way because of travel advisories or when there is political uncertainty.
It is clear, using the data provided that the overlooked segment of domestic tourism contributes more than half of all hotel bed nights, visits to national parks and game reserves. With this information, I feel that this is where the industry should concentrate their energies to survive, even post the current crisis.
What are your thoughts?