Balala tells KPA to speed up work on cruise ship terminal

Monday January 4 2016

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. Mr Balala, during a visit to the port of Mombasa on January 2, 2016, said the construction of a new terminal will attract more cruise ships, hence more tourists. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. Mr Balala, during a visit to the port of Mombasa on January 2, 2016, said the construction of a new terminal will attract more cruise ships, hence more tourists. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MATHIAS RINGA
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Tourism Cabinet Secretary (CS) Najib Balala has called on the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to expedite construction of a cruise terminal at the port of Mombasa to cater for the rising number of international tourists.

Mr Balala who spoke at the port of Mombasa on Saturday, said the terminal will attract more cruise ships, hence more tourists.

The port currently lacks a cruise terminal for welcoming visitors.

Those on their way out have nowhere to relax as they wait to board their ships.

But despite the shortcoming, last year, the World Travel Awards voted the port Africa’s best.

Although KPA has earmarked Sh100 million for the building of a cruise terminal at berth 1, the project is yet to begin.

In November and December last year, the port received five cruise ships which brought in more than 3,000 tourists and crew.

And last Saturday, MS Seven Seas Voyager came with more than 1,000 passengers and crew. Two more cruise ships are expected this and next month.

Mr Balala called on KPA to implement project to give tourists good reception.

“In the past two months, the port has received thousands of tourists, thus putting up a cruise facility at the port would attract more ships,” said Mr Balala.

“As tourists arrive at the port, it is important that they have a place they can relax and have refreshments. The facility should have a restaurant to serve food and drinks to visitors when they arrive or are waiting to board,” Mr Balala added.

TERRORISM AND PIRACY
The CS said cruise tourism could turnaround the sector since the tourists are big spenders.

He added: “Other than visiting parks and game reserves, cruise tourists also love city tours where they buy souvenirs from our curio dealers. Most of them return for longer holidays and this boosts hotels among other businesses, hence the economy.”

Mr Balala said Kenya Tourism Board would also market the port in international markets to woo more tourists.

The port received up to 60 cruise ships annually in 1980s and 1990s but the number plummeted due to piracy in Somali territorial waters.

But the CS said the Kenya Defence Forces and naval forces from the international community have since contained piracy.

He attributed the increase in the number of cruise tourists visiting Mombasa to the lifting of travel bans some western countries had imposed on Mombasa.

KPA general manager in charge of operations Twalib Khamis terminal will be in place soon.

He said the project was delayed by piracy in Somali waters that crippled cruise tourism.

Mr Khamis added, through the Cruise Indian Ocean Association, KPA will work with other members such as Tanzania, Mauritius and South Africa to attract more cruise ships to Mombasa.