Kenya's ambitious plan to attract 13,000 cruise tourists this year

Tourists disembark from MSC POESIA at the Port of Mombasa. [Robert Menza, Standard]

Kenya targets at least 12, 554 cruise tourists to arrive at the Port of Mombasa, representing over 290 percent increase from last year.

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary, Dr Alfred Mutua, on Saturday, predicted a good tiding for the sector that has since 2004 been subdued by sea piracy, terror-related insecurity, and punitive policies.

“November marked the beginning of the cruise season, posting 8,480 numbers of arrivals, in the last 3 months,” he said, adding that there was immense potential for cruise ship calls.

According to a 2015 report by Tourism and Transport Consult International on cruise tourist potential for Kenya, the Port of Mombasa could attract over 140,000 passengers per year.

A total of 3,213 passengers and crew were received at the ports of Mombasa and Lamu in 2023. This year the country has so far received 6,810 passengers and crew, projecting a growth of over 50 percent.

“In 2023, the arrivals from cruise vessels closed at 2,490. We have all indications of growth in this segment as we look forward to receiving more cruises before the close of the year," the CS said.

Dr Mutua was speaking yesterday at the Port of Mombasa during a reception to welcome MSC Poesia, a cruise ship belonging to Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), carrying 3500 passengers and crew.

"The spend by these visitors directly goes to the economy through visa fees/ETA, ground transfers, chartered flights, park fees, visit to Mombasa city and shopping, " CS Mutua said.

About 200 local taxis will complement the ground transfers by the main ground handlers, who are Pollman Tours and Safaris.

“The arrival of MSC Poesia adds to four the number of vessels that have docked since last November,” said Dr Mutua, adding the 70 passengers visiting Maasai Mara leaving behind Sh23 million.

The CS said the refurbished cruise terminal was aimed at positioning the Mombasa of Mombasa as a premier destination for cruise tourism.

“I commit that my team and I will proactively market Kenya as a cruise destination of choice. The port is capable of attracting 140, 0000 passengers per year,” he said.

On his part, Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir expressed his delight at MSC Cruises for having chosen Mombasa as their next port of call during its vessel's global tour.

“My administration through its relevant departments is working closely with all key stakeholders to ensure passengers and crew arriving have hassle-free visits to our Port City, " Nassir said.

One of the disembarking passengers, Joseph Tavlian, a former soldier with the Australian Navy expressed satisfaction at the warm reception the passenger and its crew received after they docked.

“I am putting my hand on my heart and wish to reveal that in the one month, we have been sailing on this vessel and visited multiple ports, no other port matches Mombasa welcome reception," he said.

Joseph said that he last visited Mombasa in 1981 while still serving in the Australian military onboard HMS Perth 38. “Am sure there is more to see today," he said as he boarded the shuttle bus for a city tour.

Among the ship's 1000 crew were 16 Kenyans who worked in various departments of the ship. Ms Stella Wangari, a senior guest service agent expressed happiness at docking on home soil.

"We are all happy to be home although for very few hours. MSC is a great working place for us where we are treated as one family," she said.

Veteran hospitality expert and Director at Pollmans Tours and Safaris, Mohamed Hersi termed increased port calls in Mombasa as a very good development.

"We are happy that a large vessel is calling at our Port. Everybody is benefiting from this visit. We look forward to working with MSC Cruises and hope that Mombasa can be made a home port where itineraries start and end," he said.

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Managing Director, Capt William Ruto, and board chairman, Mr Benjamin Tayari were present at the welcome ceremony where the vessel's Master Capt Liota was presented with the Ports first call certificate.