UK–Kenya travel restrictions hurt half-year visitor numbers

UK–Kenya travel restrictions hurt half-year visitor numbers

Tourists alight from a chartered flight at the Moi International Airport, Mombasa/ The heightened travel restrictions between Kenya and the UK in April led to a drop in international arrivals into the country, amid Covid-19 impact on the sector.

Pre-Covid, UK was the second overseas market source with 181,484 arrivals in 2019, a year that saw the country record the highest international numbers ever, at 2,048, 834, with the US being the lead market with 245,437 visitors.

The decision by the UK to place Kenya on its ‘Red List’ this year, over the lethal South African coronavirus variant, affected arrivals from the traditional market as tourists to Kenya remained low in the first six months of the year.

Tourism Research Institute (TRI) data released yesterday indicates Kenya recorded 305,635 international arrivals in the period between January and June 2021.

This is 262, 213 shy of the total arrival recorded in full year 2020 which the East African Business Council (EABC) has captured at 567,848, as Kenya led her regional peers in the number of international visitors.

During the six months reviewed by TRI, the US topped with 49,178 arrivals followed by Uganda and Tanzania which had 31,418 and 31,291 of its citizens visit Kenya, respectively.

China for the first time beat UK with a total of 18,069 arrivals as British visitors to Kenya totalled 16,264, a distant fourth among top five markets.

It was followed by India with 13,950 visitors, a period that visiting family and friends topped the reason of travel to Kenya (94,241 arrivals), as opposed to the traditional holidays to beach destinations and parks.

“We can see the UK dropped to number five due to the effects of the unfair travel restrictions and putting Kenya in the Red list despite our Covid-19 numbers giving a different scenario,” Tourism and Wildlife CS Najib Balala said in a statement yesterday.

When Kenya was red listed, the government retaliated by banning visitors from the UK with the two countries restricting flights from either end.

Kenya Airways, a key carrier on the route and other airlines were affected as UK banned Kenyans or anybody transiting through Kenyan airports from setting foot in the UK, save for residents who had to undergo mandatory quarantine at a government listed facility.“We are still engaging and we hope these travel restrictions will be lifted not only by the UK but across the world. Meanwhile, we are still continuing to observe safe travel protocols, ” […]

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