When it comes to Africa travel, Kenya is a country that has more often than not been described as being touristy; a commonplace, inauthentic, overcrowded and overrun with travelers.

But compared to other leading travel hubs, Kenya is not only far from being touristy but also lags behind when it comes to tourist real time tourist numbers. For example in 2015 Kenya recorded 1.18 million tourist arrivals which if compared to top African destinations such as Morocco with 10.2 million and South Africa with 9.5 million visitors over the same period is a dismal figure. Further comparisons with global tourist meccas such as Spain, Italy and France which record well over 50 million annual visitors, Kenya’s slightly over million figure appears even more depressing.

 

TOP 10 TOURIST DESTINATIONS IN AFRICA

RANK DESTINATION ARRIVALS 2014 ARRIVALS 2015
1 MOROCCO 10 MILLION 10.2 MILLION
2 SOUTH AFRICA 9.1 MILLION 9.2 MILLION
3 EGYPT 9.6 MILLION 9.1 MILLION
4 TUNISIA 6.2 MILLION 6.0 MILLION
5 ALGERIA 2.7 MILLION
6 MOZAMBIQUE 1.8 MILLION
7 ZIMBABWE 1.8 MILLION
8 KENYA 1.4 MILLION 1.2 MILLION
9 UGANDA 1.2 MILLION
10 NAMIBIA 1.1 MILLION

 

TOP 10 TOURIST DESTINATIONS IN THE WORLD

RANK DESTINATION ARRIVALS 2014 ARRIVALS 2015
1 FRANCE 83.7 MILLION 84.5 MILLION
2 UNITED STATES 75.0 MILLION 77.5 MILLION
3 SPAIN 64.9 MILLION 68.2 MILLION
4 CHINA 55.6 MILLION 56.9 MILLION
5 ITALY 48.6 MILLION 50.7 MILLION
6 TURKEY 39.8 MILLION 39.4 MILLION
7 GERMANY 33.0 MILLION 35.0 MILLION
8 UNITED KINGDOM 32.6 MILLION 34.4 MILLION
9 MEXICO 29.3 MILLION 32.1 MILLION
10 RUSSIA 29.8 MILLION 31.3 MILLION

 

So where does this touristy misconception come from?

East Africa is where the concept of safari was born making Kenya a pioneer in safari travel. As a result Kenya was the go to safari destination in the 70’s and 80’s and as such the country became synonymous with safari probably earning its ‘touristy’ reputation. The 90’s however witnessed a drastic decline in the tourist industry and the rise of other African countries especially South African and Zimbabwe which now dominate the safari travel niche.

Though Kenya has experience some intermittent fluctuations in tourist visitors over the years, the country does not seem to have fully recovered from its ‘hey days’ in the 70’s and 80’s and has of recent been witnessing a decline in numbers. The decline is due to varied reasons which we will not delve into.

From the table above the number of international visitors continues to trend downwards and it will be no surprise that 2016 figures (not yet released), continue to buck this trend.

Another reason for this misconception no doubt comes from the occasional overcrowding in Kenya’s jewel in the crown – the legendary Masai Mara, especially during the epic annual wildlife migration. Famously dubbed as one of the ‘7 wonders of the world’ the wildebeest migration is a major tourist attraction. During the migration months of July-August, visitors will all squeeze into this one park so inevitably there will be overcrowding. The noisy and overwhelming human traffic in this single park has more often than not earned the country the unenviable reputation of being ‘touristy’.

Kenya is  so much more than the Masai Mara. The country has one of the most diverse and idyllic natural settings in Africa – and, I would contend, the world – has to offer. Here we revisit a list of 5 destinations that are not only the furthest thing from bring touristy but will most definitely whet your safari wanderlust.

 

1. The Aberdare National Park

 

2. Sands at Chale Island Resort

 

3. Mt Elgon National Park

 

4. Kapsimotwa Gardens in Nandi Hills

 

5. Visit Masai Mara during the off season

 

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4 Comments

  1. January 21, 2017 at 8:07 pm — Reply

    Kenya does look beautiful. I think there may be a perception of security concerns for some travelers. What do you think?#wkendtravelinspiration!
    Jim ~ ReflectionsEnroute recently posted…Travel Folly to Travel GloryMy Profile

  2. January 22, 2017 at 12:37 am — Reply

    Areas become “touristy” when the word gets out of the beauty or spectacle and everybody wants to go see and “experience”. Back that up with tour operators and development and the original reason for the attraction fades. I applaud you for pointing to other points of interest in a great country and hope that sane levels of visitors allow the beauty and interest to remain long after their footprints disappear.
    Rhonda Albom recently posted…Observing Everyday Life in Suzhou ChinaMy Profile

  3. January 22, 2017 at 1:02 pm — Reply

    I’ve always wondered what visiting Kenya would be like! I had a friend who went and LOVED it! Hope to go one day! #Wkendtravelinspiration

  4. January 26, 2017 at 9:15 am — Reply

    Consistently reading our blog has taught me so much about Kenya over the years. I’ve always enjoyed your safari related posts, but I’m always impressed by how much other activities and sites there are. I hope your country realizes how good you are at promoting them to travelers.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted…The Wondercrump Roald Dahl Museum & Story CentreMy Profile

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