A Norwegian-owned luxury vessel with over 700 passengers will dock at the Port of Mombasa on Christmas Eve.
Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, in his Twitter handle, disclosed that there had been growing interest in the port of Mombasa by cruise liners.
The docking of MS Nautica marks the start of Kenyan cruise tourism season amid growing concerns that construction of a Sh450 million modern cruise terminal at the port has delayed.
TradeMark East Africa and the Kenyan Government through the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) are jointly funding the project.
Speaking after a meeting with KPA management, Mr Balala, however, said all ongoing civil works would be completed by August 2019.
“The contractor on site has given an assurance that by August 2019, all work will be complete awaiting official commissioning before the next cruise tourism season sets in,” Balala said.
Balala inspected the ongoing construction works at berth Number 1.
Prior to the inspection, the CS had met KPA Board of Directors chairman Joseph Raymond Kibwana and Managing Director Arch Daniel Manduku.
“I have been assured that the construction of the cruise terminal will be complete in time for the next cruise season. We need to market the Port of Mombasa as a cruise destination aggressively as we seek to have a share of the global cruise tourism pie,” Balala said.
Industry players have welcomed the construction of the modern terminal to handle cruise ships, with Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) saying the project was long overdue.
“Its completion and operationalisation will endear Mombasa Port to more international cruise liners and open up Mombasa and the Kenyan Coast to more international visitors,” said Sam Ikwaye, KAHC Coast branch executive officer.
And the County Government of Mombasa has said the new cruise terminal will boost cruise tourism locally.
“The aim of building a cruise facility at the Port of Mombasa is to support the Government’s efforts to revamp tourism,” said County Chief Tourism Officer Innocent Mugabe.
The civil works, which began in December 2016, involve the modernisation of an old building at the port’s berth Number 1.
The new terminal, when completed, is expected to have arrival and departure areas for passengers.
The facility will also have a lounge, an immigration office, reception counters for cruise operators, restaurants and souvenir shops.