Comparing Kenya tourist arrivals  to Morocco & South Africa not like for like 

Why continued comparison of Kenya’s tourism arrivals to South Africa or Morocco is wrong.

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

Mohammed Hersi


Kenya Tourism Federation

One response to “Comparing Kenya tourist arrivals  to Morocco & South Africa not like for like ”

  1. The drop in Kenyan tourists is due to multiple reasons some of which are self inflicted!

    1. The crisis caused by the large tour companies.
    We originally used Thomson as the direct flights of 6.5 hours was very livable. The main reason for stopping was nothing to do with the UK advisory and everything to do with money. If you read the advisory carefully for holidays on the coast there was nothing bad other than a small area around Mombasa island and the airport. I’m sure if the Travel companies had asked nicely the Kenyan Goverment would have provided a police or army escort for this short distance ( as indeed happens for other holiday destinations ). The fact that the holiday companies didn’t speaks for its self. We normally holiday in Nov /Dec and thomson was still telling us our holiday was on as late as September. It was only when I e mailed Thomson pointing out the Gatwick airports slots to Mombasa in November didn’t exist and that unless I got confirmation that the holiday was a go, I would not pay the balance.Two days later an e mail confirmed the cancellation of the holiday stating unavailabilty of travel insurance, and the possibility of a holiday in Sri Lanka at a additional cost of just over £2000! The lack of insurance was a lie like most of the other information they gave us. We have never had any problems getting travel insurance for Kenya, but alot of UK tourists believed them.Thomson were making alot more money on other holiday destinations and were I suspect only too happy to back out of Kenya.

    2. The UK Home Office

    Kenya must have had very bad relations with the Kenyan Goverment at the time, in that if you make a comparison with other holiday destinations such as Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, Senegal etc, only Kenya was given the Treatment.

    3. Inaction by the Kenyan Goverment and Tourist Board

    The lack of action in communicating with European tourist has been mind boggling. A campaigne on UK
    tv pointing out that the travel ban did not cover all of Kenya and that contary to what the tour companies said , insurance was available – perhaps even a phone number so that people could ask for the names of companies, would and should made a big difference.Even worse nothing was done when Senegal / Gambia etc were knocked off the market due to Ebola, still no marketing was done. Its only in the last couple of months we’ve seen ( a few!) ads for Kenya, have a look and see what South Africa does ( now thats a dangerous place – even the South African tourists we talk to admit it). Kenya is now one of the few places in the world that is relatively safe, even London and Paris should have a higher risk rating than Kenya – now theres an idea for marketing.
    The shambles that was the original Evisa didn’t help matter’s either – Senegal introduced it before Kenya and then scrapped it ! The Evisa works pretty well now, but makes absolutely no difference to the amount of paperwork at Mombasa airport.
    Going by personal experience at Mombasa airport and the police / army around Kilifi we’ve never had any problems – Mombasa immigration even smile and chat.( I didn’t think immigration officers were allowed to smile!). Perhaps being old, half blind and having a wife that has to walk with a stick helps? The immigration queue control normally find her a chair, leaving me to due the clearance! If you want the runaround try Frankfurt Germany airport – customs & immigration there are a really bad tempered lot.

    4. Lack of direct flights to Mombasa

    This is becoming a real killer, the booking in 3 hours before an international flight with multiple change of flights make it unbearably long. Surely it would be possible for the same aircraft to do Frankfurt / London to Niarobi and on to Mombasa at a reasonable price without all the problems of changing planes / terminal? The only direct flight at present is condor and thats expensive and the times dont line up. At present it takes us 24 hour to get from Luxembourg to Mombasa!

    Sorry this is so long but I feel so sorry for your average Kenyan who has been mucked up by international Tour Companies and Kenyan admistration


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