New arrivals revive key cruise ship terminal at Mombasa port

Tourists come out of Cruise Ship, oceanias at the port of Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango,Standard]

Sailing under the flag of the Bahamas, the MV Odyssey on November 28 opened the doors of the cruise terminal at the port of Mombasa, which has been lying unused for more than two years.

In bringing life to the terminal that cost the taxpayer Sh1.3 billion, the cruise ship, also known as a floating university that operates as a campus and travelling home, docked in Mombasa carrying 800 passengers.

It stayed for five days, the highest number of days a cruise vessel has ever docked at the port of Mombasa in recent times.

The passengers and crew visited and sampled the various attractions in Kenya's tourism.

On Christmas Day, the MS Nautica flying the Marshall Island flag docked at the port with 1,000 passengers and crew for a day-long visit.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Peninah Malonza and Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) General Manager, Marine Operations and Harbour Master, Godfrey Namadoa were on hand to receive the ship whose passengers and crew used the modern terminal to access Mombasa.

Captain Namadoa said KPA had put in a lot of investment to upgrade the facility which is now among the best in the world. "This cruise terminal is a game changer and we expect to handle even more cruise vessels," he said.

Tourism sector

The arrival of the cruise ships brought hope to the Kenyan tourism sector as it eyes full recovery after a slump occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Construction of the cruise terminal at the port's Berth Number 1 started in 2016 and was completed in 2019.

Its construction was meant to attract more cruise liners to start calling at the port of Mombasa as they crisscross the Indian Ocean waters and beyond.

The terminal features a three-storey building and comes with similar facilities to those at an international airport such as a duty-free shop, lounges, restaurants, conference facilities, port health and immigration.

Sarova Hotels and Resorts Group Managing Director Jimi Kariuki said as the global tourism industry continues to recover from the unprecedented economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, coastal and marine tourism remains one of the key growth sectors for many destinations.

"For long haul destinations such as Kenya, tourism is a major driver of economic growth, direct and indirect jobs creation, major earner of foreign exchange and has been critical to ensuring economic resilience," he said.

The cruise tourism sector, specifically constitutes one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global tourism industry, he said.

"For Kenya which has a well-developed coastal tourism product, in order to take advantage of and to benefit from the continued growth of the cruise tourism sector, it was," essential that we built a modern passenger terminal that would accommodate large cruise ships as well as offer passengers the opportunity to explore Mombasa and its surroundings, including nearby wildlife parks such as the Tsavos he said.

Kariuki, a former chairman of the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), said the building of the Mombasa cruise terminal remains a welcome development for the tourism sector.

"Unfortunately, it lay idle for a very long time. The arrival in Mombasa on November 28 of the World Odyssey cruise ship carrying 800 passengers was a shot in the arm for Kenyan Coast tourism."

Stakeholders in the tourism sector want the government to aggressively market Kenya and Mombasa as premier Indian Ocean cruise tourism destinations and also secure homeport agreements with cruise liners.

"This is big business and we need to be on the main table in Africa," Kariuki said.

"What is more important is that the number of direct flights to Mombasa from key overseas destinations is increased, not only in terms of frequencies but also a variety of airlines."

He said this has to be the game plan for 2023 so as to position the destination for 2024.

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