The government has started revamping the Moi International Airport (MIA) in Mombasa at a cost of Sh7 billion (US$70 million).
The project, which targets to refurbish the airside pavements and airfield lighting system, hopes to attract more charter planes to Mombasa.
Speaking during the project's groundbreaking, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the revamp would also help maintain the airport's excellent safety record and enhance its efficiency.
The project is partly funded by French Development Agency (FDA) and Kenya Airports Authority, with the consultancy service being sponsored by World Bank.
FDA is funding 93 per cent of the project.
Last done in 1994
The restoration of pavements is expected to give it a lifespan of 20 to 25 years as the last rehabilitation was done in 1994.
“Moi International Airport is the main airport serving the coastal area and the principal port of entry for tourists, business travellers and others visiting the region, both from within and without the country.
"It is worth noting that about 80 per cent of international tourists and the overwhelming majority of other visitors travel into the county by air,” said Mr Macharia.
Mr Macharia said the project will be completed in two years and is expected to be commissioned by 2020.
KAA managing director Johnny Anderson said the works will include rehabilitation of the runway pavements, reconstruction of parts of the taxiways and aprons and removal and replacement of pre-cast concrete slabs.
All lighting fittings, including runway, threshold/end, taxiway (LED), approach and apron end; replace taxiways primary and secondary cables and transformers are to be changed.
“With the completion of these works, we will have increased the lifespan of the runway for another 20 to 25 years and ensured the safety and passenger comfort of all travellers to Moi international Airport,” he said.
Mr Balala said the improvement of the airport was critical as it lies in a county that largely depends on tourism.
“If a destination like this is not accessible then the economic growth will not happen. 45 per cent of this region is tourism. This airport has been seen to be more efficient than JKIA and we are glad for the investment,” said Mr Balala.
Mr Balala said that it was unfortunate that despite its capacity of over two million people, the airport currently handles less than 300,000 people.
“We have had more chartered airlines, from nine charters to 15, which is a great improvement but we cannot rely on it alone. We need to have more scheduled airlines,” he said.