Kenya is eyeing to become the second major destination for cruise ships in Africa after Egypt following its search for new deals during the recent cruising conference in Miami, USA.
The authorities expect the cruise ship business to take off from November when the construction of the terminal to receive the ships is completed.
In 2017, Kenya failed to attend and showcase its cruise ship product to Miami — which was hosting the world's largest cruise ship conference — due to the delays in the construction of the facility at the port of Mombasa.
The construction of the Sh350 million world-class cruise ship terminal at the port, which was initially set to be completed in 2017 but was pushed to 2018 and later to November this year, is 40 per cent complete.
Kenya’s plan to have a California-based operator of luxury cruise ships make Mombasa a home port for its vessels to boost arrival of holidaymakers from the United States went a notch higher after officials of the Kenya Ports Authority attended the world's largest cruising conference last week.
The delegation led by the chairman, General (Rtd) Joseph Kibwana, Managing Director Daniel Manduku, General Manager Operations Captain William Ruto and Principal Communication Officer Hajji Masemo was last week in America attending the global cruise ship forum to bag business ahead of the take-off of Kenya’s cruise ship sub-sector in November.
During the meeting, the team met various leaders and showcased its plans besides making contacts with potential partners and customers during the three-day annual Seatrade Cruise Global event held from April 8 to 11. The event attracts big names in the industry.
In 2017, Kenya’s shipping industry could not go to Miami, having nothing to offer with its terminal far from complete.
“How do we go to Miami in March and we do not have a facility to confirm? We will not be able to sign contracts with cruise ships if we do not have a facility to show, and already we have delayed in our promises so even that trust will fade out in the next discussions,” Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said in 2017.
Kenya has been wooing Princess Cruises, a California-based operator of luxury cruise ships, to make Mombasa a home port for its vessels in a move that could boost arrival of holidaymakers from the United States.
A home port status would imply that for every voyage, the Princess Cruises vessels will call at the Kenyan coast not only to offload and pick the majority of their passengers but also to restock supplies and fuel.
“KPA is constructing a state of the art cruise terminal at the port of Mombasa which is expected to boost tourism in the country. Last year Kenya received over 3000 cruise tourists with a total of five cruise vessels calling the port,” KPA said on its Facebook page.
According to the CS, from November the Cruise Terminal will be completed in time for the cruise season in the same month.
Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta inspected of the ongoing construction of the modern cruise ship terminal at the port of Mombasa. The cruise traffic to the county last year fell, with only four vessels docking at the Mombasa port, even as the government announced a third delay in the completion of a Sh350-million cruise ship terminal.
According to the 2018 port performance data for the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), the country received 2,333 cruise passengers last year, a marginal drop from 2,342 the previous year.
The traffic has been on a decline, from a high of 5,072 passengers on six vessels in 2015, to 2,298 a year later after a series of travel advisories and terrorism incidents at the cCoast.
"Seatrade Cruise Global unites 11,000 professionals around a singular sensation: feeling at home on the sea. Ready to increase your ingenuity, uncover new trends and secure profitable partnerships,” read Seatrade Cruise Global said in its website after the event.
Themes discussed included sustainable tourism to address the latest challenges in popular markets, how cruise lines are collaborating with local communities and destinations to identify solutions and innovation.