The number of tourists to Kenya grew by 16.1 percent in 2016 with tourists from the United States for the first time surpassing visitors from the UK.

The American market grew by 16.4 percent compared to a 4 percent decline in tourists from the UK. In total, international arrivals for January to October 2016 by air and sea closed at 729,682 compared to 628,345 in 2015

Speaking at the launch of the construction of the Sh350 million Cruise Ship Terminal at the Port of Mombasa, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said sustained marketing efforts will continue in the coming year to improve tourist arrivals in the country.

“In February 2017, we are going to host 3000 travel agents from the United States so that market this (Kenya tourism) product to the American market,” said Balala.

Tourists from Uganda increased by 85 percent to reach 45,000, while arrivals from South Africa and India stood at 28,000 and 55,000 respectively. In that same period, the Kenya Ports Authority Mombasa handled 1,880 arrivals by cruise ship.

Kenya has also reaped from hosting international conferences in 2016 with Nairobi voted Africa’s leading Meetings and Conference Destination this year at the annual World Travel Awards.

In 2015, the arrivals from this market grew by 13pc to 117,630 delegates, representing 15.6p of the total international tourist arrivals last year.

“These events have raised and boosted visitor and investor confidence in the destination, as well as positively projecting Kenya on the global tourism map. This positive environment has attracted new investors in the hospitality sector who are keen to cash-in on the growing meetings and conferencing market,” said Jimi Kariuki, the Chairman of Kenya Tourism Board, in an earlier statement.