Despite a series of hurdles, tourism continues to pick up steadily, with the country banking on cruise ships to return the sector to its former glory.
Tourism cabinet secretary Najib Balala said the country is beginning to reap the fruits of aggressive efforts to boost the sector.
He said a total of international arrivals for tourists in January to September 2017 by air and sea were 723, 174 compared to 657, 438 in 2016.
“During the period under review, arrivals through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport grew by 11.1 per cent to record 655, 569 compared to 589, 958 in 2016. At the Moi International Airport 66, 699 visitors were received, compared to 65, 600 in 2016,” he added.
For the last nine months, the CS said Kenya has seen a 10.4 per cent growth in the sector.
“Unfortunately growth at the Moi International Airport is very small, it is only about 2 per cent but we understand the challenges Mombasa has. We are trying to encouraging more people to visit Mombasa,” said Mr Balala.
The CS was speaking when he received luxury cruise ship, MS Nautica that docked at the Port city of Mombasa with 642 passengers and 394 crew. The ship arrived last week on Saturday morning from Marshall Islands in North Pacific Ocean which is between Hawaii and Australia.
The tourists from different countries including Australia and USA will sample Coast region’s tourism products such as Haller Park, Amboseli National Park, Shimba Hills and later tour the city of Mombasa.
Mr Balala (below) said the arrival of the ship is good news for the country as the government is putting in place deliberate efforts to grow cruise tourism.
He called for more partnerships with travel agents specialising in cruise travel to explore more ways ensuring that cruise tourists spend more days in the country.
“Docking of the ship whose next port of call is Zanzibar will also open doors to others in this festive season and the coming New Year. When they spend more days it will in turn ensure maximum spend and economic impact on revenue receipts to the sector,” said Mr Balala.
He said noticeable improvement in security of the Indian Ocean waters is also a major step towards the revival of cruise tourism.
The CS said 420 passengers of the cruise ship would visit different national parks in the region.
Mr Balala said the government has a clear strategy in developing cruise ship tourism. He however regretted that the building of cruise ship terminal has taken too long.
“Our dream of having a cruise ship terminal has taken too long. This year we went to the Sea Trade convection in Miami with KPA officials. We met several cruise ship operators the most interesting one was Princess Cruises that were willing to be in Kenya in 2019,” he said.