Kisumu International Airport was officially opened on Thursday, paving the way for increased trade and investment in the Western Kenya region .
It becomes the fourth international airport in Kenya and will be the third largest after Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi and Moi International Airport in Mombasa. The other airport is located in Eldoret.
The business community in Kisumu is upbeat that the upgraded airport, which was opened by President Kibaki, will open up the region and bring in more investment opportunities.
Last year, Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) invited investors to provide aviation fuel, ground handling services and manage an automated car park.
“We are now focusing on enhancing new business opportunities and encouraging people to open up more,” KAA managing director Stephen Gichuki said.
Already, traffic through the airport has increased by 50 per cent, according to figures from KAA.
Over 540,000 passengers went through the airport in 2010 up from 360,000 recorded in 2009.
Mr Gichuki said the second phase of the expansion which includes building cargo-handling facilities will begin soon.
The upgrade began in 2009 and cost Sh3 billion.
It included an elongated runway that was initially 2.1 kilometres and was now extended to three kilometres to enable the airport handle large aircraft like the Boeing B737 and B767.
In addition to this, a new terminal has been constructed with the capacity to hold up to 700 passengers per hour. Passengers on eight flights can check in simultaneously.
During the official opening of the airport, President Kibaki also commissioned the ground-breaking ceremony for the rehabilitation of the Nyamasaria-Kisumu-Kisian Road.
The 25 kilometre road network is being rehabilitated at a cost of Sh5.8 billion and is being contracted by Chinese construction firm SinoHydro Corporation.