Hoteliers are banking on the proposed construction of a Sh5.5 billion cable car facility on the Likoni channel to help turn around tourism in the South Coast.
Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia says the Ministry plans to sign a deal with contractors to pave the way for the construction of the facility in October or early November.
“We are at an advanced stage of the project and we hope to launch the construction of the cable car facility in the next few months,” Mr Macharia said two weeks ago.
The cable car will ease congestion at the Likoni channel, providing an alternative transport to travellers and transporters who currently rely on ferries to cross to the South Coast from Mombasa Island.
According to Diani Reef Beach Resort managing director Bobby Kamani, the cable car will open up Kwale County for easy access by tourists.
He expects tourists coming from Moi International Airport in Mombasa to take a shorter time to cross the channel to Diani.
“Over the years, tourism in Diani has been facing a major transport challenge due to frequent ferry breakdowns on the channel,” he said.
“With the cable car, it will be much easier for tourists to travel from Mombasa to Diani for holidays and uplift tourism in Kwale County.”
Mr Kamani called on the government to fasttrack the construction of the cable car to ease transport between Mombasa and Diani.
“Accessibility is key for tourism as visitors prefer to travel in comfort. Kenya is a long haul destination and it is important for visitors to easily access their destinations rather than be delayed by the ferries,” he said.
On the other hand, the hotelier urged the government to speed up the construction of the Dongo Kundu bypass as it is another alternative route between the counties of Mombasa and Kwale.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye said the cable car would attract more domestic tourists to Mombasa and Diani since it will be the first ever such facility in the country.
Travellers who cross over the channel using the cable cars, he added, would enjoy the panoramic view of the Indian Ocean and scenic beauty of the shoreline.
“The cable car will be a tourist attraction in itself as travellers will enjoy faster and comfortable mode of transport compared with the ferries which are normally congested,” he added.
Over the years, hoteliers and tour operators in Diani have been decrying low business owing to transport challenges on the Likoni channel triggered by frequent ferry breakdowns.
Diani is popular with foreign holidaymakers since it is endowed with powder soft white sand beaches and turquoise waters ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Last year, Diani was voted the leading beach destination in Africa by the World Travel Awards.
But international tourists heading to the South Coast from Moi International Airport, Mombasa, face delays when crossing the Likoni channel due to aged ferries.
Kenya Ferry Services managing director Bakari Gowa says a concession agreement for the construction of the Sh5.5 billion cable cars on the Likoni crossing has been finalised.
Mr Gowa pointed out that the project which will be implemented through a public-private partnership will take 18 months to complete.
He added that when the project is completed, the cable cars will be transporting 80,000 passengers a day and decongest the ferries.
The KFS boss notes that the five ferries operating on the Likoni channel transport more than 300,000 people and 6,000 vehicles per day.
It is estimated that the Likoni Express Cable car will take two minutes and thirty-five seconds to cross the 500-metre stretch.
Currently, ferries take between five and 10 minutes to move passengers across the channel but delays of up to 40 minutes have been occurring when the vessels break down.
The project will involve 22 cable cars with each one of them carrying 38 passengers and making nine trips per hour.