The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to cause serious damage to many economies of the world and Kenya is not left out after data from its National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) revealed that the country has slipped into recession for the first time in 2-decades.
Data released earlier today showed that Kenya’s economy fell 1.1% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2020 (Q3 2020), and that’s after shrinking by 5.5 percent in the second quarter.
Before the decline in the second quarter, the economy last contracted in the third quarter of 2008, when post-election violence led to a 1.6% drop in output, according to the statistics office. The agency only started publishing quarterly GDP data in 2000.
Many economic experts have continued to blame the woes suffered by the East Africa giant on the slump suffered by its tourism sector — which alongside exports of tea, flowers, vegetables, and fruits — is one of the country’s main foreign income earners.
The movement restrictions and lockdowns that were necessitated by the pandemic effectively crippled travel and tourism across the globe for a huge chunk of the previous year.
This meant that Kenya’s tourism sector was adversely affected by the travel restrictions. In December 2020, the tourism ministry said the sector had lost KES 110B (almost USD 1B) in revenue between January and October.
Kenya is among the leading tourism hotspots in Africa. The country offers a broad range of tourist attractions which include sandy beaches, safari tours, and national parks, not to mention plush suites, exotic hotels, and accommodations.
Tourism earned Kenya USD 1.55B in 2018 after the number of visitors rose by 37%. Those earnings were a 31.2% improvement from the USD 1.19B earned in 2017.
In 2019, the country’s earnings from tourism rose 3.9% compared to 2018 when there were over 2 million international arrivals, with international tourists spending over KES 157 Bn (USD 1.47 Bn).
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the tourism industry’s total contribution to GDP had reached KES 588.6B (USD 5.9B) in Kenya as of 2015.
But the covid-19 pandemic and the accompanying restrictions significantly slashed tourist flows into the country. The KNBS says accommodation and food service activity crashed 57.9% in Q3 2020 alone; a sharp deterioration from 9.9% growth in the third quarter of 2019.