Industry players are seeking to capitalise on this growth, even as traditional source markets in Europe threaten to stagnate in the face of an economic crisis that is eating into revenues in the sector.
While the number of tourists from South Africa grew by 16 per cent last year, traditional source markets such as France, Italy, the US and Germany recorded declining market shares.
“South Africa is set to become our fastest growing source market in the region. We are investing and marketing heavily in the country,” said Tourism assistant minister, Ms Cecily Mbarire.
She added that 44 per cent of South African tourists visiting Kenya came on business related excursions.
She was speaking on Saturday on the sidelines of a tourism marketing event in Durban. Dubbed Indaba, the event attracted 13,000 exhibitors from across the world.
It is Africa’s largest tourism trade show and the third largest tourism marketing event in the world. 20 Kenyan companies are exhibiting at the trade show.
Growth in the number of South African tourists visiting Kenya is reflective of a positive trend in regional tourism on the continent. In 2011, African source markets contributed 24 per cent of total arrivals to Kenya.
Uganda had the highest number of arrivals followed by South Africa and Tanzania.
Meanwhile, South Africa reported 32.7 per cent growth in tourists from Nigeria and 45 per cent growth in tourist numbers from Tanzania. Kenyans travelling to South Africa during the period increased from 29,089 in 2010 to 30,279 in 2011, marking a 4.1 per cent increase.
On Saturday, South Africa’s tourism ministry revealed a plan to invest Sh2.2 billion in marketing the country across the continent. The government is also planning five regional tourism marketing hubs. Insiders revealed that Nairobi might be one of those hubs.