• India is currently the fifth largest source of tourists to Kenya
  • Kenya attracted 2 million tourists last year
  • Kenya is far behind South Africa in attracting tourists


Kenya wants to see a 20% increase in tourists from India this year.

India is currently the fifth largest source of tourists to the East African nation. About 122,000 Indians visited Kenya last year.

The top four sources for tourists in 2019 comprised U.S. (245,000 visitors), Uganda (223,000), Tanzania (194,000) and U.K. (181,000).

“India is a market that excites key players in the Kenyan tourism sector due to its potential for growth,“ said Betty Radier, chief executive officer of the Kenyan Tourism Board. “We want to ensure that we leverage on the tremendous relationship Kenya and India has had over the years to increase the numbers from this market.”

Radier added that the return of Air India to Kenya last year was “a good indicator for the two countries and will also increase existing connectivity to Kenya and thus further enhance accessibility of the destination by Indian travelers.”

The World Tourism Organization of the United Nation estimated that India has about 75 million passport holders and 50 million will travel to foreign countries in 2020.

Overall, some 2.05 million tourists visited Kenya last year, less than a 1% increase from 2018. In 2019, visitors spent about $1.61 billion, a 4% jump from the prior year.

David Koech, a Kenyan author, wrote that Kenya is far behind South Africa in attracting tourists – in 2019, some 16.7 million people visited South Africa, eight times the number going to Kenya.

“Foreigners prefer to visit South Africa because they feel safer there,” Koech wrote. “It’s an unfortunate truth that Kenya has been plagued by insurgent attacks in recent years, and when such events occur, they provoke worried responses from international newspapers. The death of three Americans in the most recent Al-Shabaab attack, for example, will probably have a negative impact on the number of American tourists willing to visit the country this year.”

Koech noted that between 2012 and 2015, when Al-Shabaab was at its most active, tourism to Kenya dropped.

The Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala said Kenya needs to upgrade its infrastructure in order to further promote tourism.

"Tourism and aviation must be connected,” he said. “We need a new international airport, a new state of the art convention center and a state department for aviation. Without a proper convention center and airport, we will see tourism dwindle.”

Balala also sees foreign retirees as a growth market for tourism, particularly those from U.S., U.K., India, China, Germany, France and Italy.

Last year, tourists between the ages of 25 and 44 accounted for 59% of visitors to Kenya, but the Ministry of Tourism sees growth potential for global retirees with time and money on their hands. Tourists above the age of 55 represented only 12% of total visitors last year.

“This is the biggest potential that people have ignored. These are people who have their pension and want a place where they can spend their money,” said Balala. “We want to create a facility in Kenya which can encourage retirees to come. These are people who come to spend their pension and not to take our jobs.”