The Transport ministry has lined up a Sh5.6 billion upgrade plan to lift Malindi Airport to international status as part of efforts to boost tourism and open an alternative shipping front at the Coast.
Transport PS Irungu Nyakera said the extension of the airport’s runway from 1.4km to 2.5km would cost Sh2 billion.
Part of the Sh5.6 billion will also be spent on compensating owners of 259 hectares of land that the government intends to acquire for the runway project.
Other works in the project that starts next year include the expansion of the taxiway, control tower, fire and meteorological stations.
“We plan to implement phase two of the expansion of the airport, which includes extension of the runway to 2.5km, to the tune of Sh5.6 billion in the next financial year,” said Mr Nyakera.
“The expansion of the runway is crucial as it will enable the airport handle bigger aircraft and boost tourist arrivals in Kilifi County.”
The ministry is currently implementing phase one of the project. The first phase includes expansion of the apron from 4,500 to 10,000 square metres, construction of a car park and a 7.5km security fence at a cost of Sh300 million.
The projects (phase one) are 48 per cent complete and are expected to be completed in December.
Mr Nyakera said Sh400 million had been set aside for compensating landowners and 62 families occupying 25-hectare parcel of land near the airport.
He said the land would be used for the expansion of hangars from four to 10 and construction of a business centre. For the government to implement the second phase, the PS said, the State must acquire 259 hectares of privately owned land.
He pointed out that the government had procured a surveyor who would in the next two weeks identify the portion of land required for the major expansion.
The surveyor is also expected to ascertain the number of people to be affected by the acquisition of the land.
“Within two months, we expect the surveyor to conclude the survey work on the required 259 hectares for us to arrange compensation for the land and the people to be displaced,” he said at Malindi Airport on Monday after inspecting the ongoing expansion of the apron.
He said extension of the runway would enable it to accommodate bigger aircraft such as Boeing 737-600 series with a capacity of 150 passengers.
Kenya Airports Authority acting managing director Nicholas Bodo called on Malindi residents to support the expansion of the facility.
“To sustain tourism in Malindi, there is a need for direct flights from Europe to boost international tourist arrivals,” he said.
“This can only happen if locals can pave the way for the expansion of the runway.
“We require land to enable us realise the dream of having a big runway which can allow big planes to land.”
According to Malindi Airport manager Walter Agong, the facility currently handles aircraft with a capacity of 90 passengers.
He said local airlines such as Jambojet, Fly540 and SAX operate flights to the airport.
Last year, the airport received 150,000 passengers but when the facility is expanded it is expected to receive 400,000 air travellers per year by 2020.
Currently, hotel occupancy in the resort towns of Malindi and Watamu ranges between 30 and 40 per cent respectively due to few charter flights from Italy to Mombasa.
At the moment, only two charter airlines from Italy, Meridiana Fly and Neosair operate two flights each to Moi International Airport, Mombasa.