Kenya’s bid to grow its earnings from cruise tourism faces a crucial test as heightened political activities cloud the next season, which begins in the next two weeks.
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) officials said they expect cruise ships to start bringing tourists to Mombasa in November.
“The first cruise ship is expected to arrive at the port in early November. The luxury cruise vessels bring tourists from around the world,” said Hajj Masemo, senior communication officer at KPA.
“After arriving in Mombasa, majority head to national parks and game reserves for Safari while others enjoy city tours and excursions in Haller Park, Old Town and Fort Jesus.”
Kenya has been eyeing cruise tourism growth after the segment improved significantly last season with thousands of visitors arriving in the country by sea. The KPA began the construction of the cruise ship terminal last December.
When completed, the terminal will have arrival and departure areas for passengers at the Port of Mombasa.
The facility will also have a lounge for passengers, an immigration office, reception counters for cruise operators, restaurants and souvenir shops.
But the prolonged electoral politics appear to cast a dark shadow on the plans.
Mr Masemo, however, expressed optimism that the port would receive more cruise ships upon completion of the terminal, “which will help improve services offered to tourists”.
A luxury Omani royal yacht, Fulk Al Salamah, arrived at the Port of Mombasa from Dar es Salaam on Sunday with more than 300 passengers, making sector players bullish about the period ahead.
The visitors included Oman’s Oil and Gas minister Mohamed Al Rumhi, Public Authority for Investment minister Salim Al Ismaili, and the undersecretary for ministry of Tourism, Maitha Al Mahrouqi.
Tourism minister Najib Balala said the arrival of the royal yacht was a boost to cruise tourism in the country.
“Apart from the visit being historical, it is an indicator that the Sultanate of Oman has confidence in Kenya. We will capitalise on our cultural ties to woo more Oman tourists to our country,” said Mr Balala.