Piracy shoots down cruise ships numbers

Wednesday January 19 2011
Cruise ship

Some of the over 500 tourists who arrived at the Port of Mombasa aboard a cruise ship MV Spirit of Adventure after disembarking to start a two day tour on January 16, 2011. The cruise ship which made a stop over at the Port of Tanga escaped pirate attacks along the Gulf of Eden on its way to Tanzania. Photo/GIDEON MAUNDU

The threat of pirates along the Somali coastline is scaring off cruise ship travellers denying the country potential visitors to continue the tourism sector’s recovery process.

In 2010, when the industry showed strong signs of recovering from effects of post-election violence and the economic slowdown, the number of cruise ships arrivals dropped by 95 per cent due to the menace.

“There were no cruise arrivals for the period under review following cancellations due to fear of pirate kidnappings off the Kenyan Coast,” the Central Bank of Kenya’s Monthly Economic Review for October says about the period between January and August last year.

According to Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) statistics, insecurity in the Indian Ocean saw a fall in the number of cruise ships from 15 vessels carrying 12,096 visitors in 2009 to just four vessels with 508 visitors who arrived last year. All of them arrived in the last quarter of the year.

This was a major setback to the sector, which had been growing fast given that the 2009 arrivals were nearly double the 2008 figures when 6,877 visitors in 15 cruise ships came calling.

“Though this paints a gloomy picture in this sub-sector, there is hope that with more focus on improvement on security, Kenya’s performance on cruise tourism will improve,” KTB managing director Muriithi Ndegwa told the Nation on Wednesday.


Spirit of adventure

He said this year one cruise ship - The Spirit of Adventure- docked in Mombasa last Sunday with 274 passengers but had to manoeuvre to avoid attacks by pirates off the Coast of Zanzibar.

“This is just the beginning of the year and we are hoping to have more ships docking with more visitors on board in future,” said Mr Ndegwa.

He said with other industry players, they are lobbying relevant authorities to come up with sustainable solutions to piracy, which has become not only regional but a global headache.

The industry’s optimism is backed by the overall performance of the sector, which shows it will match, if not surpass, its best year 2007 when a million visitors came calling earning the country Sh65 billion as revenue.

CBK’s review shows the sector has been growing since 2008.