Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has begun the journey to construct a world class cruise ship terminal as it aims to increase tourist numbers.
The authority is renovating its cruise lounge to be used for the next several months as it begins works on a new terminal. KPA will begin the tendering process for a new cruise ship terminal by April.
“The plan is to construct an airport-like ultra modern cruise facility with lounges, duty free souvenir shop as well as immigration and customs desk,” KPA’s principal communications officer Haji Masemo said.
The official said architectural designs for the new facility had been finalised and approved but were shelved over increased piracy cases in the Indian Ocean.
Initially the port management had estimated that the terminal would cost about Sh100 million but the number has since been reviewed downwards.
“We have set aside Sh50-70 million for the construction,” Mr Masemo said.
KPA came up with the idea of building a cruise terminal in 2001 when its officials attended the World Ports Conference in Montreal where seaports were encouraged to become friendly to cruise tourism.
In June last year Mombasa was voted the best cruise port in Africa by the World Travel Awards despite not having the crucial facility.
The lack of a facility to host holidaymakers arriving by sea has always been a bone of contention for tourism stakeholders at the Coast even before the 2012 decline in cruise ship arrivals.
Many faulted the lack of a befitting welcoming lounge and made numerous calls for KPA to improve the infrastructure.
Last year six luxury liners docked at the port of Mombasa, bringing more than 3,000 passengers. In 2014 only two ships docked at the port bringing in 900 passengers.
“We are expecting more cruise ships until March and we want to have the refurbished terminal ready for the next peak season,” he explained.
At the height of cruise tourism glory in 2004 before lawlessness hit the Indian Ocean, a total of 42 cruise ships docked in Mombasa bringing up to 15,000 visitors.
The Seven Seas Voyager made a return call on January 2 after it initially docked at the port on December 9 carrying 658 tourists and crew members on its way to Durban, South Africa.
KPA expects two more luxury liners to call at the port by the end of February.
“Once the facility is commissioned, the management is targeting up to a hundred calls a season to surpass the pre-piracy days’ target of 50 calls a season,” said Mr Masemo.
The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) plans to market the country as a cruise destination in a bid to diversify the international tourists source markets. KTB has already confirmed its participation in the Seatrade Cruise Global (formerly Cruise Shipping Miami) in March.