Malindi and Watamu hospitality facilities are increasingly losing business to rivals in Zanzibar on lack of direct aviation link with source markets such as Italy, investors have said.
According to Ocean Beach Resort managing director Roberto Marini, majority of the Italian tourists, who used to visit Malindi for beach holiday shifted to Zanzibar, which receives direct flights from Milan, Italy.
“Tourists have to travel for between eight and nine hours from Italy to Nairobi or Mombasa, and then travel by road for hours from Moi International Airport to Malindi,” said Mr Marini.
“To overcome such inconveniences, most of the tourists, who used to holiday in Malindi resolved to relocate to Zanzibar”.
He added: “From Milan, holidaymakers can fly directly to Abeid Amani Karume International Airport in Zanzibar and enjoy their vacations unlike in Malindi where they have to endure longer travel.”
In a bid to revive tourism in Malindi and Watamu, the government has been working on a plan to expand Malindi Airport to handle direct flights from Europe. The plan, which involves extending the airport’s runway from a distance of 1.4km to 2.5km, is yet to take off.
The State is supposed to acquire 159 hectares of land for the purpose.
Malindi Airport, which currently receives about 230,000 passengers annually is expected to handle more than 400,000 travellers per year after expansion.
Investors like Mr Marini, in the meantime, want the government to permit the smaller local and regional airlines to operate directly flights to Malindi from places like Kisumu, Nairobi and Eldoret as well as from regional markets like Rwanda, Ethiopia, Zambia and Uganda.