International arrivals slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels

International arrivals into the country have begun trending towards pre-pandemic levels as global travel resumes following the disruption occasioned by measures put in place to curb COVID-19.

New data from the Tourism Research Institute (TRI) shows that international arrivals in the first six months of 2021 totaled to 305,635 in contrast to 390,335 last year.

The new arrivals data nevertheless remains a far cry from levels seen before the start of the pandemic in March last year.

Arrivals in the first quarter are for instance two and a half times lower than those recorded in 2020 at 157,702 from 389,590.

However, second quarter arrivals are nearly 200 times higher at 147,993 from just 745 arrivals in the period marking the start of the pandemic last year.

“We are encouraged by the numbers although we are not there yet. Because this is only a fifth of the two million visitors we received in 2019. But we understand this is because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lock-downs that ensued which affected the travel trends this year,” said Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala.

Of the 305,635 arrivals, 94,241 were visiting family and friends; 92,828 traveled for conferences; 87,629 were on holiday, while 15,811 were on transit.

Meanwhile, 8,637 traveled for education; 3,592 for medical purposes; 1,722 for religious reasons, and 1,175 for sports.

The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) was the key point of entry booking 218,992 of the arrivals.

Top source markets over the first half of the year saw a reshuffle attributed mostly to differing travel restrictions influence the ability of travelers in the review period.

For instance, the United Kingdom slipped one spot to fifth with 16,264 arrivals with the slump greatly being tied to the U.K travel restrictions on Kenya.

At the same time, the United States displaced Uganda as the apex source market for local visitors having booked 49,178 arrivals.

Other top source markets in the period include Tanzania, China, India, Rwanda, Somalia, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

June saw the highest number of international arrivals at 61,608.

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