MOMBASA: The New Year started on a high note after a luxury cruise ship docked at the Port of Mombasa on Saturday with more than 1,000 tourists and crew members.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala who received the Ms Seven Seas Voyager, a US owned liner registered in Nassau in the Bahamas, announced that Kenya will participate in the 31st Annual Cruise Shipping Miami Convention slated for March 16- 19 in the US.
Balala said that the Ministry of Tourism and key industry stakeholders will participate in the event to market Mombasa as a cruise port of call in the Eastern rim of the Indian Ocean.
Ms Seven Seas Voyager, a regular at the Port of Mombasa, docked early Saturday with 1,139 passengers plus crew for a day-long stay. The luxury ship docked at Mombasa port some time last year.
“We have had a relative good season in 2015 and expect to have an equally good new year for the cruise tourism industry. We shall be participating in the annual Miami Cruise Convention this year,” Balala who was flanked by Principal Secretary Fatuma Hirsi said.
Balala said cruise tourism has shown great potential for growth in recent months following years of decline caused by sea piracy in the Indian Ocean. “I urge all players in the sector to explore ways of ensuring that cruise tourism is frequent business,” he said.
The CS added that the resumption of cruise will give the much needed impetus to the coastal tourism whose numbers have dipped recently due to travel advisories imposed by tourist source markets.
Balala said they are banking on forging closer working relations with all stakeholders including neighbouring nations that border the Indian Ocean to come up with a joint marketing of this part of the globe as a popular cruise destination.
“We have some of the best beaches, ports and idyllic tourist attractions in Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Seychelles, Mozambique, the Comoros and South Africa which we could sell as a combined product,’’ Balala said.
KPA General Manager in charge of Operations Captain Twalib Khamis said they are excited at the prospects of a resurgence in cruise ship rotations into Mombasa. “This year we shall be starting work in construction of a modern terminal dedicated to handling of cruise liners that dock at the Port,” Khamis said.
Abecrombie & Kent who are the official tour ground handling agents for cruse liners calling at the Port of Mombasa confirmed that they expect four more ships to call at the Mombasa port.
“We expect to have at least 10 cruise calls this year up from the six we had in 2015,’’ Mr Anthony Chege, General Manager Touring, Mombasa division said.
Tourists who arrived aboard Ms Voyager were of mixed nationalities. A majority are from the US and UK.
Other passengers came from Germany, South Africa, Sweden, Canada, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Portugal, Brazil, New Zealand, Mexico, Denmark, Australia and Italy.
American tourist, Mr Brad Shearers from Florida, Miami who visited Kenya a decade ago said he was delighted to be back on Kenyan soil in the New Year.
“When I first toured Kenya, I visited the Masai Mara and even flew to Lamu where I encountered donkeys,’’ he said.
Some of the tourists visited Bombolulu, Haller Park, Amboseli (by air), Mwalughanje, Shimba Hills National Reserve and Mombasa town.
The Miami Cruise Convention brings together international exhibition and conference serving the global cruise industry. Last year, the Port of Mombasa reported about 3,196 tourists docking up from 362 recorded in 2014.