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Tourism in Kenya

An example of how the growth of tourism in Kenya (a LIC becoming a NEE) helps to reduce the development gap

Kenya is a country in East Africa that has successfully developed a tourism industry over the past 40 years. 

Kenya map

Tourists visit Kenya for many reasons, including to go on safari and to visit its spectacular coastline around Mombasa. Wildlife viewing of animals such as lions, elephants and giraffes is the major tourist attraction in Kenya. Elephants and rhinos almost died out in the 1980’s because of poaching and hunting but tourism has offered a more sustainable economic activity. As can be seen on the graph, Kenya attracted 1.4million visitors in 2014.

Kanya graph

Kenya faces numerous problems as a country, it suffers from periodic failure of the rains such as during the 2011-12 Horn of Africa famine and terrorist attacks from the Al-Shabaab group linked to Al Qaeda. The GDP in 2013 was only $1,245 per person, just above LIC status and making it a lower middle income country.



Some facts about tourism in Kenya

• Travel & Tourism generated 226,500 jobs directly in 2013, indirectly 11.6% of Kenyan’s jobs rely on tourism
• 11% of the total wage employment is accounted for by tourism and earnings from tourism allow the government to reduce their level of debt
• Tourism contributed DIRECTLY 4.8% of Kenya’s GDP in 2013 and a massive 12.1% of GDP through direct and indirect (e.g. farms supplying hotels) tourist services.
• 7.6% of Kenya’s capital investment (money coming into the country to develop industry and projects) comes from tourism
• Money spent by tourists in 2014 within Kenya was 17% of Kenya’s exports.  
• Tourism brings in US$5.3billion to Kenya’s economy


All of these positive economic features have allowed Kenya to develop as a country – tourism directly supports the development of Kenya as a country and allows the government to reinvest money into improving the quality of life for its people. However there are positives and negatives of the tourism.

Positives of tourism 

1. Tourists like to see cultural shows by Maasai warriors and will pay good money for it
2. Local infrastructure is improved as water and sanitation facilities, roads, buses, taxis and airports are provided for tourists.
3. Tourists see beautiful landscapes, wildlife such as elephants and plants. They can also be educated about the dangers to fragile ecosystems in the modern world.
4. The Kenyan government loves tourism - foreign currency spent by tourists can be invested in improving local education, health and other services
5. Tourism creates jobs for local people in Kenya and people can learn new skills in tourism services and construction
6. Visitors get an insight into local customs and traditions.

Negatives of tourism

1. Foreign companies may bring foreign workers to do the skilled jobs; so local people only do low skilled, poorly paid work.
2. Important projects for local communities might be side lined as infrastructure developments are focused on tourists.
3. Pollution and disruption to wildlife habitats could occur if tourism isn't sustainable.
4. Profits can often go to foreign companies, such as tour operators and hotel chains, rather than to the local community.
5. Coastal Environments such as those in Mombasa have been damaged by tourism e.g. destruction of coral reefs as tourists step on the coral and also take souvenirs


Location of Kenya

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