Kenya is set to officially commission its first ultra-modern cruise ship terminal next week at the Port of Mombasa, giving tourism sector the much needed boost.
Tourism players say the terminal will not only have a significant impact in Kenya but across Sub Sahara Africa.
The Sh350 million airport-like terminal is expected to be officially handed over to the Port of Mombasa management on December, 16 ready to receive cruise ship before Christmas.
The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Daniel Manduku said the facility gives holidaymakers an opportunity to travel to multiple destinations at one go, adding that its location makes it easy for sailors to take advantage of the inter-modal transport.
Mr Manduku said what remains to be done at the facility is landscaping, which is expected to be completed in the next one week.
The first cruise ship ferrying high-end tourists is expected to dock at the world-class terminal in the next two weeks.
“We expect the first cruise ship to dock at this facility on 22nd before visiting a number of tourist attraction areas in Coast , and connecting to different countries in the Indian Circuit,” said Mr Manduku during the inspection of the facility.
The ship will be the second cruise vessel in the country following the arrival of MV Albatros at the Port of Mombasa early last month, bringing with it 446 passengers and 346 crew members.
Last week, Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala, inspected the ultra-modern cruise terminal at the port, saying the terminal will be the first of its kind in the Sub-Saharan region and urged tourism players to work together to market the facility.
The facility, the CS added, has been completed at the right time when cruise ship tourism season is at its peak.
“Security stability in the Indian Ocean and in the country has positioned Kenya as one of the cruise tourist centres and we expect the facility to ensure holiday makers are cleared on time by immigration before they proceed to different areas using the Standard Gauge Railway which is connected right at the port and to Moi International Airport which is less than 10 kilometers away,” said Mr Balala.
“Already a number of tour safaris have booked to place their desks in the facility to facilitate movement of tourists in different tourist areas.”
Mr Balala noted that the facility has potential to bolster Kenya’s profile as a key destination for tourism.
"The construction of the terminal will allow for an increased volume of cruise ships to arrive at the port, turning the Port of Mombasa into the main tourist destination in East and Central Africa," he said.
The heavy investment at the port, the CS said, fits international standards for cruise tourists who will not have to worry about accommodation, meals and entertainment as these will be provided in-house.
The new terminal features migration desk, visa application desk, port health desk, security and customs checks. At the departure zones, the terminal is fitted with modern security access control point, ticketing counters and migration counters.
The public areas are accessible to the public at all-time whether or not there is a docked cruise ship. These include restaurants, coffee shops, the ATM machines, curio shops and tour operators' desk.
The KPA principle projects officer James Rai said already there is a proposal to construct a direct link road from outside the port to the facility to enable public access the facility to avoid the mandatory intensive port security checks.
Analysts say Mombasa port’s strategic location has made it a perfect destination for yachts and cruise trips which is one of the fastest growing segments in the tourism industry.
Tourism players say Mombasa can serve both as a port of call and as a day excursion as it offers the visitor a taste of the exotic Swahili culture and history as well as wildlife sanctuaries, excellent sandy beaches and hotels.
A number of shipping lines have applied to the KPA to be considered to make Port of Mombasa its call port following the construction of the cruise ship terminal.
It is well documented that cruise tourism can make a significant contribution to a country’s economy and help improve local communities’ living standards.
A survey carried out in 2015 by Tourism and Transport Consult International on cruise tourist potential in Kenya, predicted that Mombasa could attract 140,000 visitors a year. In the past ten years Mombasa has had 40,000 cruise tourists, according to the survey, which projects that numbers will increase after the opening of the new terminal.
Majority of the international holidaymakers were from the United States and the United Kingdom while others were from Germany, Australia, France, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and South Africa.
A multi-agency team comprising of KPA, Ministries of tourism and interior among others, has been constituted to promote cruise tourism and entice the locals to use the facility.