Cruise tourism has been dealt a blow after a luxury cruise ship MS Albatros cancelled its scheduled voyage to Mombasa.
According to Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) principal corporate communications officer Haji Masemo, the cruise ship had been anticipated to arrive at the port of Mombasa on November 3 (Friday).
“We received information from the ship agent that MS Albatros had withdrawn its scheduled trip to Mombasa. No reasons were given for the cancellation,” the KPA official said.
He noted that MS Albatros was the only cruise ship which had been booked to visit Mombasa this month.
“Normally, the cruise tourism season begins in November and ends in March, the following year. At the moment, we don’t have any cruise ship bookings for this season,” he explained.
Seafarers Assistance Programme coordinator Andrew Mwangura said the cancellation of the luxury ship’s voyage to Mombasa was a blow to cruise tourism.
Mr Mwangura attributed the withdrawal of the MS Albatros’ visit to the political stalemate between National Super Alliance and Jubilee Party leaders.
“The political heat does not augur well with tourism. Since the August 8 disputed General Election to date, the country has been hit by political stand-off. As a result, the wrangles have affected business,” he said.
The Seafarers official warned that unless the political stand-off is addressed, cruise ships might avoid Kenya for other African destinations.
“The chaotic demonstrations which took place in Nyanza region and some parts of Nairobi might be taken lightly. But in overseas markets, it means Kenya is unsafe for holidays,” he added.
Mr Mwangura called on Kenyans to maintain peace to prevent the country from losing tourists, who visit the country by sea.
“In early 2000, cruise ships used to bring 40,000 tourists to Mombasa per season. But following pirate attacks in Somali waters, the ships kept off. It is only from 2015 that the ships came back,” he recalled.
MS Albatros, is a cruise ship operated by a Germany-based travel agency Phoenix Reisen. The luxury ship can carry up to 830 passengers.
In October, tourism got a boost when an Omani royal yacht arrived at the port of Mombasa with more than 300 passengers.
It was the first time that the local port received a royal vessel. The royal support yacht, Fulk Al Salamah, brought visitors who included Oman minister for Oil and Gas, Dr Mohamed Al Rumhi, Minister for Public Authority and Investment Dr Salim Al Ismaili, and the undersecretary for Tourism, Maitha Al Mahrouqi.
MS Silver Cloud was the last cruise ship to visit Mombasa in March this year. The ship which is operated by Silversea Cruises by then brought 479 passengers and crew.
In 2015, the port received 10 cruise ships which brought into the country more than 6,000 tourists.
Last season, two ships which made four trips brought a total of 2,958 visitors down from 10 ships which brought 6,000 tourists, the previous year.