NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s revenue from tourism jumped 20 percent last year, the government said on Thursday, as the sector continued to recover from a series of attacks on the country a few years ago that had deterred foreign visitors.
Revenues from tourism, one of Kenya’s main hard currency earners alongside tea and horticulture, totalled 120 billion shillings ($1.2 billion) for the year, tourism minister Najib Balala said.
The sharp increase came despite some expectations of a slowdown due to a prolonged and tense election period and the accompanying risk of violence.
Tourism arrivals totalled 1.47 million last year, up from 1.34 million in 2016, the minister said. That, however, was still well below a peak of 1.83 million in 2011.
“Kenya grew stronger in 2017 as a destination brand following positive visibility... This was achieved despite a busy electioneering season that threatened to slow down tourism activities,” Balala said.
The Supreme Court nullified the results of the Aug. 8 presidential election, forcing a repeat poll on Oct. 26 that was boycotted by the opposition.
Reduced attacks by the Somali militant group al-Shabaab has helped boost tourism. Visitor numbers and tourism earnings fell between 2012 and 2015 following a spate of attacks claimed by al-Shabaab.
Balala said the sector is expected to improve further this year, helped by bigger investment and marketing of key attractions.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government wants to bring in 3 million visitors a year, according to a manifesto published when Kenyatta was first elected in early 2013.
($1 = 100.65 Kenyan shillings)
Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by Susan Fenton