The country’s hospitality industry is on an upward growth trajectory, having been resilient and surmounting numerous challenges over the years to secure a place for itself among the top in Africa.
The travel and hospitality sector has immensely contributed to the economy by driving tourism earnings, providing foreign exchange and creating employment for many Kenyans.
Last year, the sector overcame election uncertainties and travel advisories to post increased earnings — Sh119.9 billion, 20.3 percent higher than the Sh99.7 billion recorded in 2016.
The rise was achieved on the back of an 8.1 percent increase in international visitor arrival numbers.
Arrivals stood at 1.45 million, up from 1.33 million in 2016. This was the highest number of visitors Kenya had received in four years.
According to ‘African Insights Hotel Outlook 2017-2021’ report by audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, in the next five years, Kenya is expected to open 13 new hotels, which will add 2,400 guest rooms, increasing the country’s hotel capacity by 13 percent.
The country has the second-highest number of branded hotels in sub-Saharan Africa, ahead of Nigeria, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
According to the report, Kenya’s hospitality sector is expected to grow by more than eight percent this year, with the expansion being linked to increased investment in the hotel segment.
The PwC report projects that, by 2022, the growth in the occupancy rate will be 58.1 percent, up from 47.3 percent in 2017.
By the end of last year, the country had an estimated 19,100 rooms with an occupancy of 47.3 percent.
Kenya has witnessed an upsurge in the number of property owners queuing up for a piece of the market share.
A 2018 report by leading real estate consultancy Knight Frank predicts growth of hotels to be mostly in the large cities of Sub-Saharan Africa.
It is against the backdrop of this positive outlook for Kenya’s hospitality that the country will host more than 500 delegates and 30 exhibitors at the 2018 Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) taking place from today until Thursday.
The three-day forum at Radisson Blu Hotel in Nairobi is a showcase of high-growth destinations and emerging opportunities across Africa.
The event will further enable the continent to grow its market share of the global tourism industry through increased investments in tourism and hospitality.
The conference, which is being hosted in Nairobi for the third time, is a one of a kind annual event bringing together investors, developers, owners and operators within the continent’s tourism sector.
The forum also attracts financiers and intermediaries such as architects, transaction advisers and senior policy makers in government from the global tourism sector.
Kenya is honoured to have such high-calibre international hotel investors at the conference, which will connect business leaders from both the international and local markets in the hotel industry.
It is through such meetings that the country will drive investment in tourism projects, infrastructure and hotel development.
Kenya will also benefit from deals to develop high-end hotels, alongside capital injection to the economy.
This will, therefore, be an opportune moment for the country, which has always emerged as a favourite destination for investments in luxury hotels owing to its friendly policies, tax incentives, political stability and an abundance of trained personnel.
Additionally, Kenya has diversified tourism products with Nairobi being the region’s business hub. The conference will, therefore, make a compelling case for investing in Kenya’s hospitality sector.
The last time Kenya hosted the AHIF was in 2013.
As the hospitality sector leaps forward, the future is bright. With the ‘National Tourism Blueprint 2030’, which is intended to bridge the gap between supply of tourism products, facilities and services as well as demand for international, regional and domestic tourism, we can only hope for the best.
Indeed, this is Kenya’s best moment to shine, and shine it will.
The author is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife.