An analysis of international tourism demand for Kenya
Ngugi, Kamau W. L.
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Tourism sector in Kenya plays an important role in the national economy and has been identified as one of the six priority sectors in vision 2030 meant to drive the economy to attain 10 percent economic growth. International tourism demand for Kenya lags behind other African countries like Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and South Africa. Furthermore, the number of tourists‟ arrivals to Kenya from different world regions does not increase constantly but have experienced cyclical fluctuations over the years. Moreover, the Kenya tourism product offered is becoming increasingly noncompetitive. There is need therefore, for Kenya to offer demand driven tourism products that ensure visitors come to Kenya and stays longer. GOK, tourism planners and marketers therefore need to clearly understand which important factors influence international tourists‟ decision to visit Kenya as their destination. Motivated by this need, the study sought to investigate the determinants of international tourism demand for Kenya. Specifically the study established the effect of economic factors, tourist socio-demographic characteristics, political factors and destination characteristics on international tourism demand for Kenya. The study used both longitudinal and cross sectional research designs. The study used panel data for economic variables from eleven countries for the period 1991 to 2011 collected from the World Bank database, United Nations database, International Monetary Fund database and Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. Survey data were collected from individual tourists leaving the country through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport using questionnaires. The study used a dynamic panel regression model to determine the effect of economic factors on international tourism demand for Kenya and a count data regression model to determine the effect of socio-demographic characteristics, political factors and destination characteristics on international tourism demand. The study results indicated that tourism price, travelling cost, trade openness and word of mouth effect were the main economic factors influencing international tourism demand for Kenya. The dummy variable representing the 2008 post election clashes and the lagged dependent variable representing the word of mouth effect were also significant. In addition, the tourist‟s socio-demographic characteristics such as annual household income, age and occupational status were found to significantly influence international tourism demand. The political factors composite index and destination characteristics composite index were also important determinants of international tourism demand. Taking into consideration of all these factors affecting tourism demand, the government and all the tourism stakeholders should work towards making Kenya tourism product competitive by ensuring that the prices remain competitive, diversifying tourism by creating tourism products which meets the needs of specific groups. The existing tourism products should also be improved in order to remain competitive, the tourism infrastructure and services should be well established and of good quality. The government should continue to engage in bilateral trade. Therefore, all the tourism stakeholders should work towards making Kenya a destination of choice.