International arrivals in Kenya dropped 71.5 per cent in 2020 as various Covid-19 restrictions took effect around the world, new data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) has revealed.
From 1.54 million visitors in 2019, the country recorded only 439,447 visitors a year later.
International travel was suspended by the government in March 2020 after the first Covid-19 case in the country was confirmed.
Arrivals hit record lows in April, May, June and July when the travel restrictions were at their most stringent.
A slight improvement was recorded in August as international travel resumed, reaching 13,919 in August up from 618 the previous month.
Most affected were players in the tourism, travel and hospitality industries who lost out on billions of shillings in revenue. Widespread job cuts, wage cuts and business closures were witnessed across the sector.
The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA)- which runs the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) among others- took a major revenue hit.
According to Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, the tourism industry lost Ksh80 billion in the first half of 2020 alone.
Like in many other industries, however, stakeholders are banking on the global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines to turn things around in 2021.
“But I want to say definitely with the introduction, issuance of a vaccine, I think this will remove fear and bring solutions to this sector.
“Without a vaccine, there’s no future for the tourism industry, I hope we can be able to disseminate these products all over the world in time so that next year 2021 July, we will have a semblance of business coming back to Kenya,” Balala stated in November last year.