In the past couple of years we have continued to compare our tourists arrival numbers to South Africa and lately Morocco.
I will focus on South Africa and Morocco. In tourism any travel above five hours is classified as long haul while anything below that qualifies to be a short haul destination.
For Morocco closest point to Europe is hardly 14 miles while most key source markets can access key Morocco airports in under three hours. On the other hand you need nine hours to get to Kenya and it is not cheap. South Africa is equally long haul 11+ hours but you will soon see that their European arrivals are very similar to Kenyas.
Morocco attracts close to 11M tourists while South Africa received 10M in 2016 while Kenya is hardly hitting 1.2M tourists. These are the numbers when thrown around makes us look like nothing when it comes to tourism.
Due to proximity to Europe coupled with Morrocos focus on tourism they were able to grow their numbers ten fold in ten years .As much as they are a short haul destination, the government of Morocco has gone the extra mile to help get those numbers . The infrastructure in Morocco is in Very good shape. Five years ago we were invited to Morocco to learn from them , we travelled by road within Morocco covering close to 1200KM and we never saw a single pothole. Out of the 11M it is also known that close to 3M if these have roots in Morocco.
British , EU and US nationals don’t need a visa to enter Morocco for the purpose of tourism for up to 3 months. On the other hand Kenya we are busy fixated on the $50 missing on the bigger picture of a potential visitor who would have spent $5000 .
Any nation that considers visa a source of revenue will never experience the true fruits of tourism. Many potential visitors will not shy off because of the $50 but the thought of applying for a visa simply puts them off. Other destinations like Sri Lanka , Thailand have Tourist card as opposed to Visa . A visa is considered a negative in world of travel.
In addition to visa a potential tourist to Kenya will have to go on a malaria protection regime before and after the holiday. The cost is anything between $50 to $100 , so a family of four will need $200+ as a minimum . Travel to Morocco is malaria free.
In the case of South Africa, the 10M tourists 7M are from the region and they arrive in SA via land. 2.3M Zimbabweans crossed into SA in 2016, 2.1M Lesotho nationals and 1.7M Mozambique nationals. A country like Lesotho is completely surrounded by SA. These guys do their basics chores even shopping in SA.
For South Africa real International visitors from the west are hardly 1.2M . The US, UK and Germany are key source markets.
So what can Kenya learn from.SA, Morocco etc.
1. Eradicate Visa for any would be tourist. We don’t even want three months like Morocco, just give us one month free stay and you will see the quick change.just the notion of applying for a Visa puts off a potential visitor. We all saw the benefits of children free visa.
2. We must encourage our neighbours and Africans to visit Kenya with ease. If Dubai can allow the millions of West Africans transiting through Dubai access for 24 hours, why cant we also do the same instead of leaving them sleeping on the floor at JKIA. What threat do these West Africans pose to Kenya ? Almost nothing and it is not that they intend to live here as refugees or apply for welfare benefits like somwehere in the West.
3. KWS must treat other Africans as Africa and not as Europe when it comes to parks fees and marine park entry fees . When our park fees go as high as $90 ? South Africa’s hardly gets to $40.
4. Open skies policy should NOT be limited to Nairobi. Mombasa badly needs a prope open skies and as a country we must now go out of our way to entice airlines to come to Kenya. Waiting for airlines to come on their own is long gone ,we lost that window some 10 years ago. It is now for us to chase them.
5. We must stop the harassment of visitors at JKIA by Immigrations, customs and the airport police. While at immigration alot has changed for the better, customs and the police are still a weak link . How much does KRA collect when they insist to rummage through personal effects? It is only in Kenya that we go through this . It is a terrible welcome
Finally South Africa earned $6B from 10M visitors which works out to an average spend of $600 per visitor while Kenya we earned $1.2B from 1M visitors which works out to $1200 per visitor which means sometimes more is not necessarily a good thing.
Well you now understand about these arrivals and comparing Kenya to say Morocco and South Africa is not like for like.
Is there potential to grow our numbers? YES we do but Let us focus on quality rather than quantity .
As always I choose to remain an optimist
Kenya Tourism Federation