Jomo Kenyatta International Airport Expansion, Kenya

Kenya’s latest arrival statistics make some grim reading as the arrival downturn continued throughout July.

Combined numbers of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi and Moi International Airport (MIA) in Mombasa for July have been confirmed to stand at 86,666 compared to last year’s number of 122,742, which translated into a drop of around 30 percent.

Hardest hit was Mombasa where arrivals reduced by a staggering 38.7 percent for July 2014 over the last year, as only 7,764 passengers disembarked compared with 12,671 in 2013.

When comparing the January to July period of 2014 versus 2013, numbers fell from 618,721 last year to 515,251 this year, a drop by 16.7 percent while again Mombasa took the greatest hit when MIA arrivals came down from 103,707 to only 77,010. This translates to a drop in arrivals by 25.7 percent.

The data for the months of August and September are now keenly awaited by the tourism industry to give a fuller picture for the first 9 months of the year, to see if the trend continues unabated or if the drop has finally bottomed out, as several participants in the Magical Kenya Travel Expo (MKTE) seemed to believe.

No one, however, has yet been able to factor in the added dimension of the Ebola fear which has kept many people from traveling to Africa, ignorant of the fact that the Ebola-hit countries in West Africa are over 6 flying hours away with a very slim chance of the virus making it across the continent, especially as surveillance and monitoring has been stepped up across Eastern Africa in line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.

UNWTO meanwhile stated that for the full year 2014, international tourist arrivals are expected to increase by 4% to 4.5%, slightly above UNWTO’s long-term forecast of 3.8% per year for the period 2010 to 2020.

Although the UNWTO Confidence Index shows some weaker levels due to the current geopolitical and health risks, results remain positive as 51% of respondents see prospects for the period September-December 2014 as “much better or better” as against 35% who rate it as “equal” and 14% as “much worse or worse.”

How this, however, will translate for Kenya, and Eastern Africa at large, remains to be seen with pundits deeply divided over the prospects for the rest of 2014 and the upcoming year 2015.

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