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Kenya bets on Sh4.2bn road to spur global tourism in Kilifi, Taita-Taveta

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The government is eyeing major infrastructure projects to ease connectivity and attract international tourists and investors to the Kenyan Coast.

Construction of the Malindi-Sala Gate road project, which links Malindi town and Tsavo East National Park, is 70 per cent complete.

The Sh4.2 billion State-funded road, which President Uhuru Kenyatta launched in 2016, is expected to boost tourism in Kilifi and Taita-Taveta counties.

The poor road condition had seen tourists take between three and four hours to travel from Malindi to the park for game drives.

And now hoteliers are optimistic that the project will boost tourism in Malindi and Watamu resort towns. Once completed, it would take less than two hours for wildlife enthusiasts to travel from Malindi to Tsavo East National Park.

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Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala assured international tourists, hotel owners and players in the sector that the government was investing in infrastructure to ease traffic movement and improve connectivity in Kenya.

“The whole infrastructure will be completed. From Lamu there will be a tarmac road to the national park, and from Malindi to Tsavo. In fact, 70 per cent of that road (Malindi-Sala gate) is complete and then we have the dualling of Malindi to Diani. In the next three to four years it will be complete.

“Besides connection between Mombasa and the South Coast through the ferry, we are building a cable car for passengers and more importantly a bridge to connect the two areas,” he said.

During the recent International Tourism Bourse in Berlin, Mr Balala told stakeholders that the government had found a lasting solution to deal with the congestion at the Likoni Channel where five ferries — Jambo, Kwale, Nyayo, Kilindini and Harambee — operate.

Congestion at the busy Likoni Channel has been a major challenge for the sector with tourists, hotel owners and other players in the sector urging the government to find a lasting solution to the woes.

Some 300,000 people and 6,000 vehicles cross the channel daily with ferries taking about 10 minutes to get to the other side, but delays of up to an hour have been reported due to breakdown of the vessels.

Hoteliers have been urging the government to “release” one vessel to ferry tourists from South Coast to North Coast to ease congestion at the busy channel. Kwale Kaskazi beach hotel sales manager Daniel Ogechi said getting visitors across has been a major challenge.

“Our beaches are among the world’s best but the ferry challenges deter most tourists. We are urging the government to allow tourists to exclusively use one ferry while crossing over,” he told the Sunday Nation.

But Mr Balala said through the infrastructure investments, travellers trooping to Kenya’s tourism hub would take 40 minutes from Moi International Airport instead of two hours to the South Coast due to snarl-ups.

The proposed Sh80 billion Likoni bridge will link Mombasa Island to the South Coast. A preliminary design has been completed.

The minister said the Likoni ferry woes would end once a cable car and a bridge are built.

“The bridge will connect South Coast and Mombasa,” he said.

According to the design, the cable-supported bridge will be 69 metres from the highest water level and 1.4 kilometres long.

Once complete, Mombasa Gate Bridge is expected to operate concurrently with the ferries. The bridge will also ease the movement of goods and people between Mombasa and South Coast as well as beyond to Tanzania. It is also expected to reduce conflicts between docking ships and ferries.

In January, Japanese consultancy, Katahira & Engineers International and Japan International Cooperation Agency presented the final preliminary design to the project stakeholders in Mombasa.

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