The Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) and Amadeus East Africa recently announced Kenya’s Travel Recovery and Demand performance for 2021. The announcement was made during a webinar themed Outlook on Recovery for the travel trade in Kenya.

Amadeus search and agency booking data showed a slight improvement in both outbound and inbound search demand and booking volumes for 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.

Data collected revealed that travel demand remains significantly below pre-COVID-19 levels due to international travel restrictions in key markets in Europe, North America and Asia. However, in June 2021, there has been growth in searches and bookings to EAC countries, with Tanzania leading as a leisure destination.

During the same period, there has been a growing demand for inbound travel into Kenya from the USA, Germany and UK. Domestic travel searches remained high as people are looked to travel more within the country. However, overall travel demand to and from Kenya stood at -69.9% in June 2021 compared to same period in 2019.

Speaking during the webinar, Jamel Chandoul Senior Vice President, MEA Amadeus noted that recovery will be driven by rebuilding traveller confidence and trust.

According to global data presented by Amadeus drawn from the Rebuild Travel Digital Health Survey 2021, 92% of global travellers still have concerns about travelling.

The top 3 travel concerns in 2021 are the following.

  • 48% – Mixing with crowds at airports etc.
  • 47% – Trust issues if accommodation is adhering to health and safety guidelines.
  • 46% – Safety & cleanliness of public transport.

The survey findings also indicated that current confidence for travel stands at 41% globally. Travel tech has also been seen as a key confidence booster among travellers, with 91% of travelers surveyed indicating confidence using a digital health passport for future travel.

Industry collaboration: Collaboration amongst industry stakeholders was mentioned as key to reigniting global travel. 72%-74% of travelers said they were willing to store travel health data electronically, if it enables them pass through airports faster and travel to more destinations. 68% of travellers said they were willing to share health data if the airlines that they frequently fly with offer to store it.

Kenya Inbound Trends: A key trend noted in data by Amadeus is that 63% of international travellers searching for Kenya in June planned to travel within the next 3 months. This is an indication that travellers are planning and booking with shorter lead times.

The data presented shows a positive trajectory for travel during the course of 2021, with a gradual increase in searches. The average daily search activity of international travellers interested in Kenya in June was 10% higher than the year-to-date average. In July it was already 31% above the 2021 average.

Most searches for travel to Kenya in 2021 originated mainly from the USA, 43% of total demand, followed by Germany 8%, UK 7% and Canada 4%. The USA also recorded the highest relative share of bookings at 30% followed by Germany at 8% and UAE and UK at 4% each.

Kenya Outbound Demand: Demand for Kenyans to travel to destinations outside Kenya has been increasing steadily in the past 2 months. The average daily search activity of Kenyans in June was 8% higher than the year-to-date average and in July it was 35% above the 2021 average. The most searched destination by Kenyans in June 2021 was USA, 30% of total demand, Tanzania 5%, UAE 5%, and UK 4%, and the most booked destinations were UAE, with 15% of total bookings, USA 12%, Tanzania 7% and Ethiopia 6%.

UAE is leading due to fewer COVID-19 travel restrictions in place.

However, the booking and departure lead time significantly reduced in 2021 YTD compared to 2019. This was largely driven by the uncertainties with the destinations that Kenyans travel to. The constantly changing travel restrictions have affected early bookings and most Kenyans prefer to book close to their departure date.

Key highlights

  • 72% of searches in June had a departure date in either June or July.
  • Booking lead time in 2019 – 26.4 days.
  • Booking lead time in 2021 – 16.9 days.
  • Kenyan Seat Capacity Recovery: Percentage vs 2019 volumes, July – December.
  • Kenya’s seat capacity among international airlines operating from Kenya has also been recovering gradually when compared to 2019 volumes, albeit slightly behind the global average.
  • Seat Capacity recovery to international destinations – 51% (Global recovery is at 63%).
  • Seat Capacity recovery to domestic destination – 86% (Global recovery is at 91%).
  • Seat Capacity recovery to Middle East – 72%.
  • Seat Capacity recovery to North Africa – 83%.

Notable Travel Trends for 2021: There has been a 20% increase on searches for 20 plus day stays in multiple destinations searched by Kenyans. The need for longer vacations or stays by Kenyans to various destinations has been attributed to quarantine requirements of about 2 weeks in various destinations, and a general interest or need for longer vacations.

There has also been an increase in relative share of Business and First-Class bookings from 9% in 2019 to 11% in 2021. This has attributed to great discounts from airlines and an increased demand for indulgent travel.

  • UAE – increased from 12.4% in 2019 to 20.9% in 2021 YTD
  • USA – increased from 11.1% in 2019 to 11.7% in 2021 YTD
  • UK – increased from 23.0% in 2019 to 27.4% in 2021 YTD
  • Tanzania – increased from 3.2% in 2019 to 4.0% in 2021 YTD

Key insights for Travel Agents

1. Shorter lead times The constantly changing landscape caused by the pandemic has weakened consumer confidence and shortened the average booking to departure lead time. Travel Agents can leverage last-minute promotions to entice customers.

2. Emerging Destinations – With some markets enforcing travel bans and others opening themselves up to inbound tourism, there has been a new order for top destinations. By monitoring border openings, Travel Agents can prepare new offers and entice clients whilst demonstrating their knowledge of the evolving situation.

3. Extended stays in destination – There has been a global trend of longer average stays in destination. In Kenya, there has been a 20% increase in booked trips of 20 days or more. Travel Agents may want to consider increasing the number of longer stay trips in their offering.

4. Indulgent travel increases – Qualitative studies conducted by Amadeus indicate that travelers desire more indulgent and longer holidays now that travel once again becomes possible. In Kenya the relative share of booked seats in premium classes increased by 2% in 2021. This translates to an increased potential to upsell clients to premium seats.

Mr. Mohammed Wanyoike, KATA Chairman expressed confidence in the industry making a full recovery sooner saying, “The industry is currently performing at about 40% of the 2019 numbers and this is an indication that the worst is behind us,” he said.