January 7, 2019 / 9:57 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Kenya's earnings from tourism surge 31.2 pct in 2018

(Adds details)

NAIROBI, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Kenya’s earnings from tourism jumped by almost a third in 2018 from the previous year to 157.4 billion shillings ($1.55 billion), after the number of visitors rose by 37 percent, the tourism ministry said on Monday.

Along with tea exports and cash sent home by Kenyans living abroad, tourism is one of the top sources of hard currency for the East African nation.

Tourism arrivals were just over 2 million last year, the ministry said, adding that 68 global hotel brands had so far set up facilities in Kenya, whose attractions include white sandy beaches on the Indian Ocean and wildlife reserves like the Maasai Mara.

Government officials hope the start in 2018 of direct flights between Nairobi and New York by national carrier Kenya Airways will help to boost the number of visitors from the U.S.

$1 = 101.7500 Kenyan shillings Reporting by Humphrey Malalo Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Toby Chopra

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