Kenya at a glance

East Africa’s most sophisticated economy is projected to grow…

East Africa’s most sophisticated economy is projected to grow 6% a year through 2021.

Businesses spend around US$1.6 billion a year on travel to, from and within Kenya, according to BCD Travel’s analysis of the latest Tourism Economics data. Domestic trips accounted for 82% of all spending. Outbound international travel accounted for 10%, and 8% came from business travelers visiting Kenya. Total spending increased almost 14% year over year in 2017. Annual growth is expected to average 12% through 2021. Spending by inbound travelers will grow fastest, at an estimated 14% per year; domestic and outbound travel spending will expand at least 10% annually.

Economic environment

Economic growth and business travel spending

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  • Kenya has the largest and most sophisticated economy in East Africa. Kenyan companies operate across the region, fueling the country’s development as a regional transportation and service hub.
  • While the economy remains dependent on agriculture, its services sector is well developed in retail and tourism. Telecommunications and financial services are gaining importance.
  • Economic growth slowed to an estimated 4.6% in 2017—down from 5.8% growth in 2016. Political uncertainty following controversial presidential elections is hampering expansion.
  • The underlying economic conditions remain favorable, which should enable a rebound to 5.7% growth in 2018. Oxford Economics reports Kenya’s economy is on track to grow 6% a year through 2021.


International travel

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  • International air travel to and from Kenya decreased 2.1% a year, on average, between 2011 and 2016.
  • Arrivals made up 60% of the 2.4 million international journeys in 2016. The U.K. is Kenya’s most important inbound market, accounting for 23% of arrivals. Second-place Germany has a 15% share.
  • More than half the departures from Nairobi’s main international airport are aboard Kenya Airways. Its low-cost carrier, Jambo Jet, operates a number of domestic routes and may start flying to neighboring countries in 2018.
  • Kenya Airways’ main local rival is Fly540. It operates more domestic routes from Nairobi and flies internationally to South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia and Comoros.


Hotel demand

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  • Hotel demand is recovering as international travelers worry less about the risks of terrorism and political uncertainty in Kenya. Overseas travelers accounted for 52% of the 6.8 million room nights sold in 2017.
  • Industry economists predict overall growth will average 6.4% per year through 2021. Demand by international travelers is expected to grow more than 9%, on average, during that time.
  • Kenya’s four largest hotel chains are all locally owned. Sarova and Serena Hotels lead the market, with nine properties each.
  • Global hotel companies are taking an interest, particularly in Nairobi. Best Western, Carlson Rezidor, Marriott and Hilton opened hotels in the city in 2017. AccorHotels, Best Western, Hilton and Mövenpick plan openings in 2018.
  • Political uncertainty depressed hotel rates in 2017, but business travel consultancy Advito forecasts rate will rise 1% to 3% in 2018.

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