Arusha. At a time when the economy is struggling to bail out the tourism sector through increased international arrivals, Tanzania has emerged as the main tourism source market to Kenya.
The country has overtaken the US as a top source market for tourists to the neighbouring country and is trailed by Uganda.
The trend is shown through statistics of tourist arrivals into Kenya for the month of September this year, six months after the country confirmed the first case of Covid-19.
The Tourism Research Institute of Kenya says Tanzania was ahead of other countries as the origin of 4,309 tourists who visited Kenya during that month.
It is followed by Uganda (3,812) and the United States,the world’s strongest economy, which was the source of the 3,458 to Kenya. Tourism stakeholders in Arusha, the hub of the country’s hospitality industry, have reacted dif- ferently to the information.
“I am not sure if that is realistic,” said Andrew Malalika, director of Jackpot Tours and Safaris and member of an Arusha-based lobby group for the sector.
Mr Walter Maeda, a local hotelier, said there may have been more people going to Kenya in September from Tanzania after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in the destination country.
The out-going visitors, he hinted, may include the expatriate community caught up in Tanzania at a time lockdowns and travel restrictions were imposed.
“But also there is a significant number of Tanzanian business people residing in Kenya, especially from Arusha and Moshi, as well as some expatriates,” he said.
Tanzania, though, has been among the leading tourism source countries for Kenya before the outbreak of the epidemic and its attendant restrictions.
According to the Kenyan tourism research body, Tanzania was third after the US and Uganda as a source market for tourists to Kenya in 2019.
During last year, a total of 193,740 visitors from Tanzania classified as tourists visited Kenya, trailing 245,437 from the US and 223,010 from Uganda.
Mr Willy Lyimo, a tourism expert, said although there is a contention on the definition of tourists, visitors from Tanzania to Kenya were likely to be traders.
“It is possible. It is very pos- sible. Sometimes their number is very high. So long as you stay in a hotel, you are a tourist,” he told The Citizen.
Tourism consultant Elisha Mayallah said Tanzania being a main source of tourists to the neighbouring countries was an indication of increased intra- regional travels.
“They may be businessmen going to Kenya to seek markets for their goods. Kenya has been hard hit by coronavirus and prices of many goods have tumbled,” he said.
Outgoing tourists from Tanzania could be non-citizens stranded after imposition of a host of restrictions following the outbreak of Covid-19.
“Given the gravity of the global epidemic, it would be cheaper for them to cross to Kenya than going for a leisure tour in South Africa,” he noted.
The virus severely brought the multi-million dollar tourism sector in East Africa to its knees due to drastic fall of arrivals.
Before March when the first cases were reported in the region, tourism was the leading economic sector in the region in generation of hard currency. It contributed an average of 12 per cent to the GDP of the six EAC partner states in 2017.